I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 109 together.
The conflict in Syria, now in its eighth year, continues to drive the world's largest protection and displacement crisis. In the first three months of 2018, we have witnessed some of the highest levels of displacement since the crisis began. Over 6.6 million people are displaced inside Syria alone, and a further 5.6 million people have fled to neighbouring countries and the region.
Responding to and resolving this crisis remains high on the international agenda, including for Ireland. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney T.D., discussed the situation in Syria with his EU colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)in February, March and April. At the FAC in April, Foreign Ministers condemned in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and stressed the need to ensure full legal accountability for those responsible for such crimes. Ministers also reiterated the EU’s support for the UN-led political negotiations to end the conflict, and the urgent need to reinvigorate the political track. The Tánaiste reaffirmed the need to avoid any escalation of the situation in Syria, and the importance of ensuring accountability for the use of chemical weapons. The EU provides direct assistance to the UN-led Geneva peace talks, and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground.
Last month, I led Ireland’s delegation to the Second Brussels Conference for Syria and the region, at which Ireland reaffirmed its support for the UN-led efforts to bring about a resolution to the conflict and called on the international community, particularly those with influence on the parties to the conflict, to redouble efforts to ensure a ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access.
Ireland condemned the repeated breaches of international law which have taken place in Syria, and called for full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly the use of chemical weapons.
I personally met with key EU and UN humanitarian and political partners, including EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and reiterated concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation in Syria, including for displaced Syrians.
Ireland is a strong and consistent donor to the Syria crisis response and our funding supports those in need inside Syria as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region. At the Brussels Conference, Ireland pledged €25 million in humanitarian support for 2018 - maintaining the same level of assistance as provided last year. Given the urgency of humanitarian needs inside Syria and across the region, over €16 million of this funding has already been disbursed. This brings Ireland’s support since 2012 to over €109 million – our largest ever response to a single crisis.
In recognition of the need for more effective, longer-term responses for those affected by the crisis – including displaced Syrians and host communities in neighbouring countries – Ireland also made a commitment to provide multi-annual, predictable assistance in response to the Syria crisis beyond 2018. Such support will provide for more sustainable basic service delivery, including education for displaced children and youths.
Ultimately, only a political resolution to the conflict will bring lasting relief to the suffering of the Syrian people. In the interim, Ireland remains committed in our humanitarian response, and will continue to work with our EU and UN partners to ensure timely and effective humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.