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UN, EU hold conference to gather more aid for Syrian people

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (L) and UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speak at a press conference following a meeting as part of an international conference on the future of Syria and the region in Brussels on April 24, 2018. (AFP photo)

The EU and UN have held a two-day conference in Brussels in an attempt to boost humanitarian aid for Syria from international donors, as the seven-year crisis continues to take its toll on millions of people in the country.

Aid organizations, UN agencies and donor countries, gathered in Brussels on Tuesday for the seventh annual conference on Syria's future.

Senior UN and EU officials are scheduled to hold talks with aid organizations working in Syria and neighboring countries before government ministers meet on Wednesday.

While according to EU figures, the total aid provided by international community after the 2017 conference was $7.5 billion, the bloc hopes to gather more help in this year’s conference.

"We have seen the situation get dramatically worse since the beginning of the year. We have had inside Syria some 700,000 displaced during a period of four months," AFP quoted a senior EU official as saying.

According to the EU, nearly 6.1 million Syrians are currently internally displaced, over five million have fled the country and 13 million others are in need of assistance.

One third of Syrian youngsters are out of school and a third of schools in the country cannot be used due to the war, Save the Children International chief executive Helle Thorning-Schmidt said.

UN children's agency UNICEF said nearly 2.8 million Syrian children had stopped their education, warning that going to school in some parts of Syria "has at times become a matter of life and death."

The war crisis has killed nearly half a million people inside Syria. Meanwhile, over 400,000 people are still trapped in different areas under siege.

Apart from the humanitarian donations, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also held talks with UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Tuesday with regard to resumption of Syria peace talks.

Following the meeting, Mogherini and de Mistura appealed for swift political talks to end the long war in Syria, noting that military force cannot resolve the crisis.

“Real, meaningful political negotiations ... are clearly the only way forward,” Mogherini said.

The Syrian government and opposition groups are already involved in a political process mediated by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The talks have led to the formation of four de-escalation zones across Syria and helped significantly reduce violence in the country.

The talks in Astana have been going on in tandem with another series of talks held in Geneva and brokered by the UN. Previous rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the UN over the past five years have failed to achieve tangible results.

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