Foreign ministers and UN chiefs talk crises in conflict zones
2018-03-01 16:55:00 -
World News

The EU Foreign Affairs Council has expressed concern about worsening situations in conflict zones across the world.


Members of the council, including Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, met with foreign ministers from Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.


“I associated myself with the remarks of fellow EU ministers who expressed deep concern at the deteriorating situation on the ground in Syria,” said Minister Coveney, “strongly condemning the attacks against civilians and calling for the immediate and full implementation of the ceasefire as agreed by the UN Security Council, to allow humanitarian access for the population.


“I also took the opportunity to update EU colleagues on my recent discussions with US Secretary of State Tillerson and Jared Kushner on the Middle East peace process. I urged that EU should play a strong and proactive role on any new peace initiative, and I also encouraged the Palestinians and other regional interlocutors to engage constructively on this.”


The Tánaiste added that the council discussed EU-Moldova relations, and agreed that the government of Moldova needs to implement reforms to tackle corruption and build up democratic institutions.


Meanwhile, UN chiefs have called for more support for vulnerable Syrians, Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and communities sheltering them, following escalating violence inside Syria.


Briefing UN member states in Geneva about the Syrian crisis, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, UNDP administrator Achim Steiner and emergency relief co-ordinator Mark Lowcock said there was urgent need for continuous support to Syrian refugees and the countries in the region hosting them.


“Now more than ever, it is critical to sustain and reinforce international support to the neighbouring countries and communities hosting some 5.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt,” they said in a joint statement. “[These communities] continue to provide a profound service to humanity at a time when inside Syria, inhumanity seems to be prevailing.


“We are deeply shaken and distraught by the brutality and utter disregard for civilian lives we are witnessing in eastern Ghouta and other parts of Syria today. We are urging an immediate ceasefire, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure and unfettered humanitarian access to eastern Ghouta, swift evacuation of sick and injured people and safe passage for civilians wishing to leave.”


Almost seven years of persistent violence in Syria has displaced half of the country’s population, the UN chiefs said. This figure includes 6.1 million internally displaced, and 5.5 million Syrians living as refugees in the region.


“It is vital for the international community to continue to support Syrian refugee families whose needs and challenges increase with every passing day, week, month and year in displacement,” their statement added, emphasising that most Syrian refugee families – and many in their host communities – are living below the poverty line.


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