US ends Syria stabilisation plan worth more than $200m

State Department says major contributions from other countries led to the decision which was criticised by Democrats.

    A small portion of the money was released in June to continue funding for the White Helmets [Ammar Abdullah/Reuters]
    A small portion of the money was released in June to continue funding for the White Helmets [Ammar Abdullah/Reuters]

    The US Department of State has announced it will cut funding worth more than $200m for projects promoting stabilisation in Syria.

    Major contributions from other countries led to the decision to shift the money "to support other key foreign policy priorities", according to the state department.

    "As a result of key partner contributions by coalition members, Secretary Pompeo has authorized the Department of State to redirect approximately $230 million in stabilization funds for Syria which have been under review," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Friday.

    The bulk of the amount was pledged earlier this year under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

    However, the funds were put under review after his sacking in March this year, and from there it would have been returned to the Treasury Department on September 30 if it remained unspent.

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    Around $6.6m from the pledged amount was released in June to continue funding for the White Helmets, a voluntary civil defence organisation rescuing people after air strikes.

    According to Nauert, two major contributions to make up for loss of US funds came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who pledged $100m and $50m respectively over the last couple of months.

    "This decision does not affect US humanitarian assistance. The United States is the largest single country humanitarian donor for the Syria response, providing nearly $8.1 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis for those displaced inside Syria and the region," the statement said.

    It will also not affect the training of local forces by US troops, as the funding for that mostly comes from the Department of Defense.

    Despite these guarantees, the decision was criticised by Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who called the move "shortsighted".

    "Lack of US leadership=Undercutting US interests in Syria and around the world. Once again, Donald Trump is helping Vladimir Putin achieve his dream by propping up the Assad regime," the group of Democrats said on Twitter.

    According to the State Department, the "decision does not represent any lessening of U.S. commitment to our strategic goals in Syria".

    "The President has made clear that we are prepared to remain in Syria until the enduring defeat of ISIS, and we remain focused on ensuring the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxies," the statement added.

    The US also said it remains committed to a political solution to the Syrian civil war, preferably a UN-led political process.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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