EU to urge regional powers to ensure progress on Syria peace talks

Brussels   – Russia, Turkey and Iran should work to calm the military situation in Syria and put pressure on the Syrian government to engage in UN-led peace talks, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a Syria donors conference on Wednesday.
The conference, hosted by the EU and the UN, is bringing together more than 80 high-level delegations with the aim of mobilizing financial support for the war-torn country.

Attempts to revive talks

Organizers are also seeking to revive political peace talks to end the conflict, which has laid waste to cities across the country since it erupted in 2011.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are the guarantors of the so-called Astana process, which runs parallel to the UN-led talks, and have vowed to impose ceasefires over so-called de-escalation zones in Syria.
“We call on them to go back to their efforts to de-escalate from a military point of view and most of all to exercise political pressure on Damascus for the beginning of meaningful negotiations,” Mogherini said.
Russia and Iran, key backers of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, need “in particular … to exercise pressure on Damascus, so that it accepts to sit at the table under UN auspices,” she said.

More grants for Syria

The heads of UN agencies issued a call on Tuesday for donor countries to step up contributions to the UN’s annual 9.1-billion-dollar humanitarian appeal for Syria and neighbouring countries that host Syrian refugees.
Only 2.3 billion dollars have been received so far.
Germany would donate an extra 1 billion euros (1.22 billion dollars), German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said as he arrived at the conference.
The Foreign Ministry in Berlin said a further 300 million euros could be added to that in the second half of the year once the German government had finalized its next budget. Germany has already given 4.5 billion euros in aid to Syria since 2012.
The EU and the UN hope that this year’s pledges will surpass the 6 billion dollars pledged at the same conference last year.
The EU as a whole and its member states have been the top donors in Syria and the region. Since the conflict broke out in 2011, they have given more than 10.6 billion euros (13 billion dollars) in humanitarian assistance.

Who represents the Syrian people ?

Meanwhile, Russia took issue with the Syrian government not being represented at the gathering.
While Syrian civil society was represented at a day-long dialogue with non-governmental organizations on Tuesday, the Syrian government has not been invited.
“I think it’s a mistake,” said Russian ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov. “We’re talking about addressing the needs of the Syrian people, so there should be somebody representing the Syrian people.”