As The Syria Crisis Enters Its Eighth Year, The World’s Eyes Are On The Assad Regime And Russia

Syria remains the largest humanitarian crisis in the world - but aid alone is not enough
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When fighting broke out in Syria on this day in 2011, no one could have imagined the brutal conflict would still be causing such horrific suffering seven years later.

Those years have been beyond painful for Syrians who have been driven from their homes, attacked by their own government and subjected to the horrors of Daesh.

In this conflict, like so many others around the world men, women and children have suffered the most. Today, more than 13million people are in need in of humanitarian assistance. Of the 400,000 people who have lost their lives, the vast majority were civilians going about their daily lives.

This sustained and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Assad regime - coupled with the use of medieval siege tactics - displays a level of callousness and barbarity that we thought we’d never see again in the modern world.

Schools and hospitals have been routinely targeted by airstrikes. Aid groups have been blocked from delivering life-saving food and medical supplies. Reports of chemical weapons attacks have been numerous.

These actions are a blatant breach of international humanitarian and human rights law and they are still happening in multiple locations across Syria.

In the enclave of Eastern Ghouta, just a short drive from city of Damascus, around 400,000 people are under siege and under fire by the regime and its backers.

A military offensive launched less than a month ago has killed more than 1,100 civilians and wounded 4,000 more.

The UK stands alongside the vast majority of the international community in calling for the 24 hour ceasefire agreed at the UN Security Council to be respected. We find it inexcusable that Russia continues to disregard Resolution 2401, which they themselves voted for.

Some hope was offered by a rare UN aid convoy that was allowed in last week and would have undoubtedly saved lives.

However, this is just a tiny fraction of the total relief effort which is needed. With so many in desperate need of aid, it is unacceptable that this convoy was forced to halt delivery earlier this week as a result of ongoing attacks, despite the agreed ceasefire.

Together with our international partners, we are ready to deliver more aid if our brave humanitarian workers are granted safe access to Eastern Ghouta again.

Elsewhere in Syria, we continue to provide life-saving and life-changing aid, as well as doing all we can to reach those that need our help the most.

In seven years, the scale of the issue has not diminished. Syria remains the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. From where I am sitting, this is the biggest humanitarian response ever delivered by the UK Government. The UK alone has provided 21million food rations, nine million relief packages and three million vaccinations.

And earlier this year the UK pushed hard for the renewal of UN Security Council Resolution 2165, which allows vital aid to continue being delivered across the border to up to three million people in urgent need.

On the other side of Syria’s borders, we have given five million refugees the education, skills training and support they need to get back on their feet.

So when leaders gather in Brussels in the coming weeks to pledge their continued support for Syria, the UK will continue to be at the forefront of the response to the Syria crisis and we will call on others to step up their support.

But aid alone is not enough.

All parties to conflict must protect civilians, respect international law and allow immediate and unhindered access for aid convoys to get to those in need.

Whilst the international community works towards a political solution, this is the only way to alleviate the mass suffering inside Syria.

Alistair Burt is the minister for the Middle East and Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire


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