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Brussels conference 'a moment of truth' for decisive steps to up support on Syria - UN chief

5 April 2017 – Speaking at a major international conference on Syria, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community to increase support for the victims of the conflict in the war-ravaged country as well as for the neighbouring ones that are sheltering millions of refugees.

"The need for humanitarian aid and the protection of Syrian civilians has never been greater [and] the humanitarian appeal for a single crisis has never been higher," said Mr. Guterres at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference being held in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

"UN agencies and our partners are determined to reach everyone in need, through all possible means," he emphasized.

The two-day conference will assess the status of implementation of commitments made at a conference in London last year as well as identify additional support to Syrians inside the country and in the neighbouring ones, as well as to the respective host communities.

In his remarks today, the UN chief underscored that there were no winners to the conflict in Syria and that as the it grinded on, it continued to extract a devastating toll on civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children remain in siege-like conditions, beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance and "persistent" violations of international humanitarian law remains a reality in the country, said Mr. Guterres, adding: "as yesterday's reports of use of chemical weapons reminded us again".

At the same time, millions remain as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Hailing the countries hosting Syrian refugees, the UN chief also underlined the importance of building the resilience of host communities and to provide them with the support they need.

"But we also must step up international budget," he added, noting that funding remains "utterly insufficient".

He also urged developed countries, in particular, not to close borders or reduce resettlement and relocation opportunities and called on the international community to protect the integrity of the international refugee protection regime and emphasized that the world must share responsibility for Syrian refugees more equitably.

"This conference must represent a moment of truth, when the international community takes decisive steps to increase its support for the victims of the Syria conflict, and for the neighbouring countries that are providing a safe haven for millions of refugees," underscored the Secretary-General.

We have to send a message to the Syrian people that they are not forgotten – UN envoy

Also today, Staffan De Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria and the mediator for intra-Syrian talks, who was also at the Brussels Conference, stressed the importance to sustain the momentum on Syria.

"Bottom line: we need to send a constant, strong message, not to ourselves but to the Syrian people that they will not become a forgotten war," he expressed, noting: "They need to hear that […] they can still count on us and hope is not given up. And I think this event, this important conference, is in this direction."

The conference started yesterday with thematic sessions on the humanitarian needs and challenges within the country and on ways to strengthen resilience of refugees and host communities in the context of the crisis.

In its seventh year, the conflict in Syria remains the largest humanitarian challenge in the world – with 13.5 million men, women and children inside Syria in need of urgent assistance. There are now more than 5 million Syrian refugees living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and many more have made the dangerous journey to Europe and farther afield.

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