EU urges Russia, Iran, Turkey to deliver on Syria promises

EU urges Russia, Iran, Turkey to deliver on Syria promises

The European Union on Wednesday called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to ensure a halt to fighting in Syria, as international donors gathered in Brussels to drum up aid for the conflict-ravaged country.

As the conflict enters its eighth year, more than 13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 5 million refugees are displaced outside the country.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that Russia, Iran and Turkey have a "special responsibility" to establish a cease-fire and to press Syrian President Bashar Assad to return to the negotiating table.

"We are seeing an escalation in military activities which is exactly the contrary" to what they promised, Mogherini said.

Around 80 countries, organizations and partners backing Syria are taking part in the donor conference. The EU hopes the meeting will give impetus to stalled peace moves under U.N. auspices, on top of gathering humanitarian aid for Syria and for neighbors like Lebanon and Jordan, struggling to cope with millions of refugees.

Meanwhile, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan De Mistura has warned that the northern, rebel-held province of Idlib could become Syria's newest humanitarian crisis area.

De Mistura said Tuesday that "Idlib is the big new challenge - 2.5 million people." He told reporters that "there are women, children, civilians, and this is looming up there."

De Mistura hoped the donor conference "will be an occasion for also making sure that Idlib doesn't become the new Aleppo, the new eastern Ghouta, because the dimensions are completely different."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 177,000 people have fled combat in eastern Ghouta since February. The rest - including about 12,000 fighters - relocated to Idlib.

United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock says he expects donors to pledge 4.4 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighbors sheltering its refugees for 2018

He told reporters during an international donor conference in Brussels, we have made a good start,even though the pledges would fall well short of the estimated 7 billion dollars the U.N. is seeking. 

He also thanked the EU, Germany and Britain for making large offers.

Russian military has indicated that it will supply the Syrian government with a sophisticated air defense system

In a statement today (Wednesday), Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said Russia will supply Syria with "new missile defense systems soon.

Rudskoi's statement did not specify the type of weapons, but his remarks follow reports in the Russian media that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.