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MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) - 14/05/2014
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(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday he was in Kuwait on a mission to express "deep gratitude" to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for huge humanitarian donations and two global donors' events for Syrian refugees.

Guterres said that his visit was "to express my deep gratitude, to say thank you, first of all to His Highness the Amir of Kuwait, but also to the government and the people of Kuwait for their extraordinary generosity in supporting the Syrian people in this tragic moment - the victims of this horrible war," he told a press conference at the UN HQ in Kuwait.

According to UN figures, Syrian refugees who have fled to countries neighbouring their own are now almost 2.3 million, with another 6.5 million displaced within their own country.

The donations provided by Kuwait to UNHCR alone are USD 210 million, and this life-saving humanitarian assistance benefitted over 1.5 million Syrian refugees, inside and outside of their country, in 2013, he said.

The amount is part of a USD 1 billion total pledges Kuwait has fully handed over to UN agencies at two international donors' conferences it hosted in 2014 and 2013, and Guterres underlined that without this "support it would have been impossible for us all to deliver in a way that would minimize the suffering of the Syrian people.

"Without the support of Kuwait this drama would be even more catastrophic than what it was. It is thanks to the Kuwait donations that we and many of our partners' activities in shelter, protection, food sanitation and health were possible.

The UN official went on to refer to the Kuwait-hosted events which collectively raised pledges of nearly USD 4 billion - USD 1.5 billion in 2013 and USD 2.4 billion in 2014 - from 70 countries and 24 international organisations, both breaking records for the highest amounts ever pledged in history for a single humanitarian crisis.

"Kuwait is not only important for its donations, but even more important is the courage, initiative and leadership of the leader of Kuwait (His Highness thAmir) convening two conferences and mobilizing support from all over of the world to help the Syrian people."

Continuing to emphasise the importance of the dual meetings, he said that, "without those meetings, those conferences, it would have been impossible to guarantee the minimum of delivery of aid to the Syrian in the dramatic circumstances Syria is facing." Describing Kuwait as "a very important international humanitarian hub", he added that "the role of Kuwait is something that the international community must today fully recognize." Other countries who have the capacity to do should copy Kuwait and "join the efforts of this wonderful country in order to minimize the suffering of the Syrian people," he said.

This support "has no strings attached, no hidden agenda, no political objectives... (and is) strictly based on humanitarian principles, on the need to help people in trouble, not for any kind of geostrategic considerations or any kind of expression of national interests." He added, "I hope the world will be able to fully appreciate the efforts of Kuwait and I hope that that appreciation will be translated into more support for the Syrian people in the months to come." Earlier in the day, Guterres had held meetings with both His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Kuwait's Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

Asked about the content of these meetings, he underlined they were to thank His Highness the Amir and the Kuwaiti government for the pledges that have been met and not to request another conference or further pledges.

While Kuwait has delivered on pledges that it made, some of the nations who attended the talks did not, and the UN official said there was no tangible pressure the UN could practice on those other than the international community's awareness of that.

Until the end of the year, UNHCR has been able to collect only 25percent of its needs for the Syrian refugees. "We are underfunded," said the UN official of the crisis, the needs of which represent one third of the whole UNHCR's global activities across Asia and Africa.


Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

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