The United States released $12 million in additional aid to Syria Thursday as violence intensified and Kofi Annan announced he would not renew his mandate as special envoy after August 31.
"Today, on behalf of the American people, the President approved an additional $12 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to support those most affected by the crisis in Syria," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
He added, "With these additional funds, the United States is now providing over $76 million in assistance for food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene kits, and other humanitarian relief to those most urgently in need."
The announcement of additional aid comes the same day UN-Arab League special joint envoy for Syria Kofi Annan said he would not renew his mandate to lead after it expires at the end of the month.
"Mr. Annan has informed me, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Nabil El Araby, of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on 31 August 2012," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon confirmed Thursday.
While UN and international leaders praised Annan for his tireless work to broker a ceasefire and political agreement between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian rebels operating as the Syria Free Army, pundits agreed his exit would leave a diplomatic vacuum in the crisis.
The ongoing conflict in Syria is now viewed as a civil war by most of the international community. In recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, particularly the country's two biggest cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. The opposition, however, claims the actual death toll is closer to 20,000.
Additionally, up to 1.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced, with an additional 130,000 fleeing the country for refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
The additional aid released today by the United States will be funneled to various UN agencies and NGOs operating in Syria and in Syrian refugee camps outside of the country. The largest recipient to date is the UN Food Program, which has received $27.5 million in aid from the U.S.
Altogether, UN agencies and NGOs have appealed for $180 million in aid for programs inside the country and $193 million for refugees in neighboring countries.
U.S. officials appealed today for additional funds from other countries while stating it was only a matter of time before Assad steps down and a political transition takes place.
"The Assad regime's days are numbered. The only question is how many more lives must be lost before it falls," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice tweeted Thursday. "We will continue to work to accelerate transition, provide support to opposition, and meet humanitarian needs of the people of #Syria."
by RTT Staff Writer
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