U.S. Pledges More Aid, Continued Support for Syrian People
By MacKenzie C. Babb | Staff Writer | 13 August 2012
Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, top right, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Syrian refugees in Istanbul.
Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced the United States will contribute an additional $5.5 million to support the more than 140,000 people who have fled Syria’s ongoing violence.
“With these contributions, the United States is now providing nearly $82 million for food, emergency health care, blankets, hygiene kits and other humanitarian relief” for Syrian refugees, the secretary said during a news conference in Istanbul August 11.
Clinton spoke following a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to discuss how the United States and Turkey can work together with international partners to respond to the growing humanitarian and political crisis in Syria.
The country has been embroiled in violent conflict since March 2011, when Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched brutal crackdowns on political opponents that have now left more than 14,000 people dead. Clinton and Davutoğlu said the violence is continuing to increase and that more and more Syrians are crossing borders every day seeking safety.
Clinton commended the governments of Syrian neighbors Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon for their generosity in taking on the significant financial burden of providing shelter, medical care, food and water to thousands of refugees.
Davutoğlu said Turkey alone is now hosting between 50,000 and 55,000 refugees, with an additional 3,000 requesting entry each day.
“We always want to open our doors to our Syrian brothers and sisters, and we have been mobilizing our resources in order to help them as much as we can,” the foreign minister said. “But this increasing number of refugees is a clear indicator of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Syria.”
Clinton commended the country for its hospitality, and thanked the Turkish people for having “not only opened your borders, but your arms and your hearts.” The latest round of U.S. assistance is targeted toward communities who have sought refuge in Turkey.
In addition to aid for those who have fled the violence, Clinton said, the United States and its partners are working to support the estimated 2 million people in Syria who remain in need of assistance.
She said the United States is providing communications equipment, nonlethal assistance and direct financial aid for the Syrian opposition working to end the fighting and begin the transition to a free and democratic country without Assad.
“As we work to help the opposition inside Syria, we are continuing to increase pressure from the outside,” Clinton said.
President Obama announced a new round of sanctions August 10 designed to disrupt support for Assad’s regime from the outside.
“We are committed to take every step we can to isolate the regime, starve it of resources to finance its brutal crackdown on the Syrian people, and to highlight and expose those who continue to support someone who is surely one of the most brutal and bloody dictators operating in the world today,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said August 10.
Later that day, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement that the sanctions restrict Syria’s state-run oil company from selling gasoline to Iran. The United States charges Iran and Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian group based in Lebanon, with actively advising, supplying and assisting the Syrian regime in carrying out gross human rights violations.
Clinton said that in addition to providing humanitarian aid and imposing sanctions, the United States and its international allies are supporting the Syrian people by helping to plan and prepare for what comes next.
“Last month, major opposition groups came together in Cairo to voice their support for a detailed transition plan and a vision of Syria that is united, pluralistic and democratic,” the secretary said. “They have since begun to rally support for this plan inside Syria.”
She said the United States supports these efforts and stands ready to help the Syrian people as they work to stabilize and eventually rebuild their economy and government.