Sweden pledges millions to boost Syria aid effort

Sweden said Friday it would donate 25 million kronor ($3.7 million) to the UN refugee agency to help the humanitarian aid effort in Syria.

But the country warned however against the creation of safe zones to protect refugees in Syria.

Establishing such areas would mean “that we have the military capacity to maintain security around such zones,” Swedish Development Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson told reporters as she announced the aid.

“We’ve decided to free up an additional 25 million kronor for Syria, via the UNHCR,” Carlsson said.

The money brings Sweden’s contributions to Syria to 182 million kronor since the beginning of the year, she said, adding that Sweden was one of the biggest financial donors for humanitarian aid to Syria.

The UN estimates there are 1.2 million displaced people sheltering in public buildings in Syria. Many more sought refuge with family and friends to escape cities where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are battling opposition rebels.

Some 2.5 million people have been affected by the 17-month-old conflict and a UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimate made in June said three million people are “food insecure”.

Carlsson said “Assad and his camp must take responsibility” for the civilian population.

“I don’t see any joint pressure from the international community for them to do so,” she lamented.

Carlsson and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt met Thursday with the head of Syria’s main opposition group the Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sayda, who asked Sweden to help provide medication, medical supplies and ambulances.

Sweden is studying the request, Carlsson said.

The CNS is holding an internal meeting in Stockholm until Saturday.

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