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Syria: 7 years on

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International Development Secretary and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson issued a joint statement today to mark seven years of the conflict in Syria.

They drew particular attention to the dire humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where 1,100 people are estimated to have been killed in the last month alone.

They called on the international community to commit to a ceasefire and a political process that ends this conflict for good.

Their words were reported by BBC Breakfast, Press Association and the Metro, among others.

Writing in HuffPost, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt backed up this statement, arguing that the world’s eyes are on the Assad regime and Russia to bring an end to the violence and protect innocent civilians.

He said that some hope was offered by a rare UN aid convoy allowed in last week, however this is just a tiny fraction of the total relief effort which is needed.

Together with our international partners, DFID is ready to deliver more aid to Eastern Ghouta if granted safe access is granted.

But, Mr Burt concluded, aid alone is not enough. All parties to conflict must protect civilians, respect international law and allow immediate and unhindered access for aid convoys to get to those in need.

Whilst the international community works towards a political solution, this is the only way to alleviate the mass suffering inside Syria.

The UK continues to lead the humanitarian response in Syria and we have already provided 21 million food rations, 9 million relief packages and 3 million vaccines against deadly diseases.

You can read more about the UK’s response to the Syria crisis here.

Statement by International Development Secretary and Foreign Secretary

“Today the Syria crisis enters its eighth year. It has become one of the longest and bloodiest wars in recent history. The impact on Syrians, above all civilians, has been devastating with an estimated 400,000 dead and 13 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

“The Asad regime and those who back it bear overwhelming responsibility for the destruction of the country, its infrastructure and the lives of its people.

“Despite promises of de-escalation, the violence continues and the civilian death toll continues to rise. Last month the UK supported UN Security Council Resolution 2401 calling for a ceasefire. Yet in Eastern Ghouta – which Russia itself declared to be a de-escalation area – the regime, with Russian support, has continued to bombard and besiege the population, turning it into a hell on earth. Over 1,100 people are estimated to have been killed there since 18 February alone.

“We find it utterly abhorrent that the regime is using food and medical supplies as a weapon of war. Civilians continue to be deliberately and indiscriminately targeted by military strikes, and despite promises made by Russia to ensure Syria would abandon all of its chemical weapons in 2013, international investigators have confirmed that the regime has since used chemical weapons in four separate attacks – which Russia has gone to great lengths to conceal. The UK is committed to ensuring that all those responsible for chemical weapons use and other violations of international law in this conflict are held to account.

“The UK has always been at the forefront of the response to the crisis. More than 13 million people in Syria and in neighbouring countries are still in need of assistance. We will continue to help innocent people survive the toughest situations imaginable and, ultimately, help them to rebuild their lives.

“The suffering will only end when there is a political solution to the conflict. We will continue to use our position on the UN Security Council to pursue this, as well as to unlock humanitarian access and protect civilians. The UN is ready to mediate a settlement. The opposition have declared their readiness for negotiations without preconditions. But the regime continues to obstruct progress. The international community must commit to a ceasefire and a political process that ends this conflict for good.”

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