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Alexander Schallenberg: “Austria will consistently continue its efforts to protect the Syrian civilian population.”

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Council of Ministers approves EUR 750,000 from the Foreign Disaster Fund to protect the civilian population in Syria

In the Council of Ministers on 23 October 2019, the Federal Government decided to disburse a further EUR 750,000 from the Foreign Disaster Fund (FDF) in addition to the humanitarian funds already provided. EUR 500,000 will be made available to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and EUR 250,000 to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for relief activities in Syria. In 2019, a total of EUR 11.35 million has already been made available from the Foreign Disaster Fund for humanitarian aid measures.

“The situation on the ground is dramatic and requires rapid action. Austria will consistently continue its efforts to protect the Syrian civilian population. The highest priority now is to keep the delivery routes for humanitarian aid open despite Turkish combat operations,” said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Turkey’s latest military offensive has further aggravated the humanitarian situation in northern Syria. Tens of thousands of people are on the run, and hostilities are making it extremely difficult to provide for the local population. According to OCHA, 450,000 people live in the immediate Syrian/Turkish border region, and up to 3 million civilians could be directly or indirectly affected by recent developments, depending on the extent of the Turkish offensive.

“We take reports of human rights violations very, very seriously. Austria has traditionally been committed to combating the impunity of war crimes and supports the efforts of the United Nations to bring those responsible to justice,” emphasises Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

The Syrian civilian population suffers from severe human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, which are attributed to the Syrian regime and individual terrorist opposition groups. By Resolution 71/248 of 21 December 2016, the UN General Assembly established the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), which collects and processes evidence such as testimonies of victims and witnesses and other documentation of the most serious crimes committed in Syria so that these can be made available to the International Criminal Court, a special tribunal or to national courts for possible prosecution.