Donors, including the United States and wealthy Gulf Arab countries, have pledged $2.4 billion for United Nations humanitarian efforts in Syria. The appeal for aid is the largest in the history of the UN.
The pledges were announced Wednesday in Kuwait at the one-day International Conference for Humanitarian Pledging for Syria, the second of its kind.
"More than $2.4 billion has been pledged at the conference," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the closing of the conference.
Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, pledged $500 million (367 million euros) in assistance, making it the biggest Middle Eastern donor, while the US announced a contribution of $380 million - bringing Washington's total assistance to $1.7 billion. Qatar and Saudi Arabia each pledged $60 million.
Germany's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it would offer 80 million euros ($109 million) in total, with a particular focus on help for refugees.
Other donors included Britain ($164 million), Japan ($120 million), Norway ($75 million), Italy ($51 million), Denmark ($36.5 million) and Iraq ($13 million).
The conference aimed to help the UN reach its target of $6.5 billion in aid for the crisis in 2014 - the largest appeal for aid in the history of the UN.
"Half of the total population of Syrian people, nearly 9.3 million individuals, urgently need humanitarian aid," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the conference earlier in the day.
"When we met a year ago, four million Syrians needed aid ... A year later, we face a regional crisis and a humanitarian crisis," Ban said.
After three years of civil war, and at least 100,000 people killed, the UN estimates that the conflict has rolled back human development gains in Syria by 35 years. The UN estimates that at least 2 million people have fled Syria, which has caused a refugee crisis in neighboring countries.
Last year, $1.5 billion was pledged via the UN at a similar meeting and was used in Syria and neighboring countries to provide food rations, medicine, drinking water and shelters. However, only 70 percent of all of the crisis funding needed for Syria in 2013 has been received by the UN, according to its Financial Tracking Service (FTS).
Ban said he hoped peace talks, due to be held in Switzerland on January 22, would bring both sides to the negotiating table. "I hope this will launch a political process to establish a transitional governing body with full executive powers, and most importantly, end the violence," he said.
Kerry said he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had talked about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire during the January 22 talks. However, it is still not clear whether the main Western-backed moderate Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, will attend the talks.
Also unclear is whether Iran will be present at the Geneva conference. Ban said on Wednesday that the UN had not yet made a final decision on the matter.
"As of this moment, we have not been able to finalize whether Iran should participate or not," he said. "I had consultations with Russia and the US and there are differences on ... the exact role and reasons for this participation."
hc, dr/ph (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)
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