European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) officials today called for aid for Syrians who fled the violence or have been internally displaced since fighting broke out in the country over a year ago, according to Agence-France Press.
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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told reporters in Beirut today the situation in Syria has "became a brutal conflict in the context of dramatic humanitarian tragedy." The comments came amid a one-day visit to Damascus by UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, reported the Associated Press.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on an anti-government rebellion began 21 months ago and is believed to have taken some 40,000 lives. Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting, taking shelter in overpopulated refugee camps in various neighboring countries.
They stand in need of "massive support," said Guterres, while EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva said the agency is working with Syrians still inside the country to provide help "so they don't need to flee to neighboring countries," reported AFP.
The UNHCR estimates the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq number some 500,000 and may reach over one million by June, said AFP.
Also today, Syria's foreign minister lashed out at the West over recent sanctions, blaming them for the nation's misery, according to AP.
"The sanctions imposed by the United States and countries of the European Union on Syria are responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people,” the state-run news agency SANA cited Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem as saying today, said AP.
The recent raft of Western-backed sanctions included an oil and weapons embargo as well as a freeze on Assad's assets and travel, reported AP.