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King calls for emergency fund to address Arab crises

By JT - Jan 30,2013 - Last updated at Jan 30,2013

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday called for setting up a fund to address exceptional circumstances arising from crises sweeping some Arab states, especially the Syrian crisis.

Speaking at an international conference of donor countries in Kuwait for Syrian refugees, the King urged efforts to safeguard Syria’s unity and territorial integrity and alleviate the suffering of its people, a Royal Court statement said.

International donors at the conference on Wednesday pledged more than the targeted $1.5 billion in aid for stricken Syrians, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said, according to Agence France-Presse.

“I am pleased to announce that pledges have exceeded the target... more than $1.5 billion has been pledged including the $184 million pledged by non-governmental organisations,” Ban told a news conference.

“This is the largest humanitarian conference in the history of the United Nations,” the UN chief said.

“About $1 billion is earmarked for Syria’s neighbours hosting refugees and $500 million for humanitarian aid to Syrians displaced inside the country,” Ban said in closing remarks to the one-day conference, Reuters reported.

The $500 million would be channelled through UN partner agencies in Syria, and the entire aid pledge would cover the next six months, according to Reuters.

Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah said that “the door is open for countries that have not donated to do so”, AFP reported.

The conference opened with a pledge worth $300 million from Kuwait, followed by similar promises from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The US has announced $155 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, according to a statement from the US embassy in Amman.

The UK announced £50 million ($78.8 million) in Kuwait as additional aid to Syrian refugees, according to a statement from the British embassy.

The conference’s initial aim was raising pledges of about $1.5 billion to provide aid to around five million people affected by Syria’s 22-month conflict, according to AFP.

Planning Minister Jafar Hassan said Jordan seeks to secure some $500 million in aid to cover the needs of Syrian refugees in the next six months, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.

Hassan noted that the aid to Jordan will be used to expand the Zaatari Refugee Camp and other camps being built, and provide basic services to Syrians who sought refuge in the Kingdom.

The minister said Jordan is hosting around 330,000 Syrian refugees, including 90,000 in Zaatari camp and other refugee shelters, Petra reported.

During Wednesday’s conference, King Abdullah noted that Jordan has been exerting tremendous efforts beyond its capabilities to provide humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have been pouring into the Kingdom.

According to a study by the Social Economic Council, a top advisory body in Jordan, the Kingdom’s challenge does not stop at around 40,000 refugees at Zaatari camp because there are around another quarter million Syrians living across the Kingdom and placing pressure on infrastructure and services. Each refugee costs Jordan around $1,200 a year, according to the survey.

Around 60 countries and 20 international organisations took part in the Kuwait conference.

Inaugurating the conference, Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah called on the UN Security Council to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, pledging to give $300 million to help countries hosting refugees fund humanitarian aid.

Calling for an end to the violence and more aid to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Ban urged the international community to intensify efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, commending the humanitarian efforts exerted by Syria’s neighbours and international organisations in this regard.

António Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees, described the situation in Syria as “catastrophic”, saying that there was “no light at the end of the tunnel”.

Guterres explained that some 222,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan have registered with the UN Refugee Agency, calling on the international community to help the Kingdom and all countries hosting Syrian refugees.

King’s meetings

On the sidelines of the conference, the King, who returned home later on Wednesday, held talks with Sheikh Sabah and a number of heads of participating delegations.

The two leaders discussed means to improve bilateral relations, the latest regional developments and the peace efforts in the Middle East, according to the statement.

Talks also focused on enhancing and institutionalising cooperation among Arab states and Islamic nations.

His Majesty also held talks with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on bilateral ties and the situation in Syria and its consequences on the stability and security of the entire region.

The King also met with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and examined areas for further cooperation.

The two leaders reviewed efforts to achieve peace in Middle East on the basis of the two-state solution, stressing the need to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

Means to enhance relations between Jordan and the UAE were also discussed during the King’s meeting with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the statement said.

During a meeting with Ban, His Majesty stressed the need to end all forms of violence in Syria, calling on the international community to intensify efforts to end Syria’s crisis and the suffering of its people.

The Monarch also called on the UN and international organisations to help Jordan in its humanitarian efforts to aid Syrian refugees.

His Majesty also met with Guterres, who voiced his appreciation for Jordan’s humanitarian services to Syrian refugees, reiterating calls for more support to the Kingdom in this regard.

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