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Ottawa pledges $25-million more in aid to Syria

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare their ammunitions near the Menagh military airport, in Aleppo's countryside January 25, 2013.

Mahmoud Hassano/REUTERS

Canada is pledging an additional $25-million in humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said on Wednesday.

Mr. Fantino made the announcement at an international donor conference in Kuwait aimed at addressing humanitarian needs arising from Syria's ongoing conflict. The money will be used to help provide emergency relief to those affected by the crisis in Syria, including water, shelter, medical care and safety, he said.

During the past two years, hundreds of thousands of people have fled Syria after initially peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad were met with violence and the conflict grew into a full-blown civil war.

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"Obviously humanitarian aid alone won't solve the problem, the conflict, the tragedy of what's going on there," Mr. Fantino said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning. "But we're going to explore ways of optimizing our contribution in a way that we work closely with other partner countries."

The funding announced on Wednesday brings Canada's total contribution to humanitarian efforts in Syria to $48-million since early 2012. The additional aid money will be disbursed to Canadian aid organizations and international agencies for their work in Syria and with refugees in neighbouring countries, according a press release from the Canadian International Development Agency.

Canada does not have a bilateral aid program with Syria and has so far provided humanitarian aid through the United Nations World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other international agencies.

Canada's contribution to Syria was eclipsed by that of several Gulf states, with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each pledging $300-million during Wednesday's donor conference. The European Union and the U.S. promised a combined total of close to $300-million for Syria on Tuesday.

Mr. Fantino's announcement comes one day after he pledged an additional $13-million in humanitarian aid to Mali. Canada has contributed a C-17 transport plane to assist the French-led offensive in Mali but did not pledge any additional military assistance to Mali and has not offered military help to Syria.

With a report from the Associated Press

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