NATO nations urged to boost support to frontline states in Syria refugee crisis
The Hague, 22 November 2014 – Western nations need to greatly step up support for Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to help them cope with the vast inflow of refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq, lawmakers from NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly said Saturday.
“We need to enact substantial increases in support for those front line states that bear the greatest burden in hosting an expanding number of refugees from the conflicts,” said Canadian Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who presented a report on the regional implication of the refugee crisis.
More than 9 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes since the start of the civil war in March 2011, many seeking refuge in neighbouring nations. The NATO PA, which opened its three-day annual session on Saturday, heard how the refugee crisis was straining resources and threatening stability in the wider region.
“Overcrowding, rising community tensions and economic hardships are linked to the influx of refugees in both Lebanon and Jordan,” Andreychuck said.
Addressing the Assembly’s Political Committee, Prof. Toby Dodge, Director of the London School of Economics Middle East Centre said a “step change increased in humanitarian and infrastructure support” was needed to help Jordan and Lebanon cope with the refugee crisis.
Dodge expressed particular concern that Lebanon could be pulled into the conflict.
The Assembly’s Civil Dimension of Security Committee passed a draft resolution calling on NATO nations to boost support for front lines states.
It also urged Allied governments to revisit reception procedures throughout Europe so the burden of hosting the migrants is more equitably shared; to toughen measures against human traffickers who exploit refugees seeking to reach Europe; and to pursue the idea od creating humanitarian corridors so that aid can reach traumatized populations in their homes.
The draft resolution is expected to be adopted by the whole Assembly at a plenary session on Monday.
Lawmakers also discussed broader security implications of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, particularly the threat posed by the radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
Although there was backing for the air strikes launched by the United States and other allies on ISIS, delegates insisted military action alone would not solve the problem and that NATO governments should provide support for ethnic and sectarian reconciliation in the region.
“As in Syria, a sustainable solution to the Iraqi crisis will be political, not military,” said Ojars Eriks Kalnins (Latvia), who drafted a report on the need to help stabilize the Middle East.
“Many Sunnis see ISIS as a lesser evil than Baghdad,” Kalnins told the Assembly’s Political Committee. “The big challenge for those who want to eradicate ISIS will be to convince those Sunnis that the Iraq political system will become more inclusive.”