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Jordan, UN to coordinate more closely on Syrian refugees

By Hani Hazaimeh - Dec 16,2012 - Last updated at Dec 16,2012

AMMAN — Jordan and the UN on Sunday agreed to create a joint operations centre to coordinate the response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said.

Guterres added that the centre will be headed by a government representative and vice chaired by a UNHCR representative. It will also include other government and UN representatives, who will all work to ensure sound joint planning to support Syrian refugees in Jordan. 

“We also agreed that all our logistics will be managed jointly,” he told reporters at a joint press conference with European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva.

The two relief officials warmly expressed their appreciation to the government for keeping the borders with Syria open for refugees.

Guterres said the UN and Jordan have also agreed to adopt a common strategy for funding in order to ensure that both the costs of assistance to refugees by international organisations and the costs supported by the government can be presented to the international community in a unified way to mobilise support.

“We reiterate our commitment to fully supporting not only the Syrian refugees but also the host countries that have generously granted protection to them as is the case of Jordan,” he stressed.

“We are living a crucial moment in relation to the conflict in Syria. It is high time for the international community to understand that this is not like many others. We are witnessing brutal fighting with a tragic humanitarian crisis,” the UN official said.

He underlined that the support to internally displaced Syrians and those who sought refuge in neighbouring countries needs to be strongly enhanced in 2013.

“Jordan is facing an enormous difficult economic situation and even so Jordan has very generously kept its borders open,” Guterres added. 

“Jordan has accepted the huge impact of the Syrian refugee community after sustaining the burden of the Iraqi and Palestinian refugee communities despite the high costs on the Kingdom’s economy and its infrastructure… representing an example that should be followed in the world,” the high commissioner said. 

Meanwhile, Georgieva said stakeholders need to assess how fast the developing crisis in Syria is impacting the region and how the UN and the European Commission can prepare for what is likely to come.

“The increase in fighting in Syria has made life very difficult and made assistance even tougher to get,” she said. 

She added that the European Commission has worked hard to provide resources to the UN and non-governmental organisations to help alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis.

“I want to express my very deep gratitude wholeheartedly to Jordan for keeping its borders open, providing access to the Syrian refugees and offering education for free to those who need it and for the Jordanian people for their kindness while opening their houses to the Syrians now living within many of the local communities here,” she said.

“We look into the next months as the crisis evolves with great degree of concern. We will continue our funding and we will continue to strive for respect for neutrality and impartiality and independence of humanitarian deliveries,” she added.

“We will continue to press for more help to people trapped in the country, but we see the number of Syrian refugees increasing in the neighbouring countries therefore we must step up our assistance here,” Georgieva noted.

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour met with Guterres and Georgieva and stressed that Jordan will keep its borders open for Syrian refugees, calling for further international support to the Kingdom in providing shelter and aid to Syrians, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh also discussed the Syrian crisis with the two officials in a meeting that also included Planning Minister Jafar Hassan, World Health Organisation Regional Director Ala Deen Olwan, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt, World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and other UN representatives.

Judeh thanked UN organisations for supporting Jordan in hosting over 250,000 Syrian refugees, Petra reported.

Hassan, who also met separately with Guterres and Georgieva, highlighted Jordan’s plight in the face of the ongoing Syrian influx and called for further international support for refugees especially as winter has started during a meeting with UN representatives and ambassadors of the Group of Eight countries. 

The ambassadors stressed that their countries will continue providing support to Jordan to continue its “sacred humanitarian mission” and help alleviate the Kingdom’s economic burden, according to Petra.

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