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US sending $100mln aid package to Syria

US sending $100mln aid package to Syria
The US has announced that it will provide an additional $100 million in humanitarian aid for Syria, which will bring the total provided aid to $510 million.

US Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced the new aid during his visit to Rome on Thursday, detailing that the funds will be used to support 1.4 million Syrian refugees that have been displaced during the civil war.

Much of the aid will be given to countries that are now home to refugee camps, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Jordan will receive $43 million to support the country’s United Nations humanitarian programs.

While meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeth in Rome, Kerry detailed that Jordan’s fourth-largest city is a ‘tent city’ made up of Syrian refugees.

“Jordan feels the impact of what is happening more than any other country,” Kerry said. There are about 525,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, which now make up 10 percent of the country’s population, the foreign minister added, explaining that the numbers are expected to rise to make up 20 to 25 percent of the country’s population by the end of 2013.

“No country can cope with the numbers that are as huge as I described,” he said.  Jordan is currently building a new refugee camp at Azraq, and the aid money will be used to provide food, shelter and health programs.

About $32 million in humanitarian aid will also be given to Lebanon, and about $9.5 will go to programs in Turkey. The remaining $16 million will be used to provide Syrians in their own country with basic necessities, including blankets, clothing, healthcare, cash assistance, and hygiene kits, the Associated Press reports, based on interviews with unnamed officials.

The Obama administration has long maintained its opposition to direct involvement in the Syrian conflict, but has become the number one provider of humanitarian aid in Syria. While Kerry’s announcement focused on this type of assistance, rather than direct intervention, the Obama administration is allegedly considering providing weapons to the Syrian rebels. 

This week, Sen. Robert Menendez introduced a bill to directly arm Syrian rebels, writing that “the Assad regime has crossed a red line that forces us to consider all options.”

Earlier this week, Kerry met for more than five hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and agreed to push for an international conference on Syria to discuss how to move forward regarding the conflict.

The new humanitarian cash will likely help refugee organizations, but do little to end the fighting between the Assad regime and the rebels.