US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin must throw all their political weight into making the Geneva peace conference on Syria a success when they meet at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
Failure to find a peaceful solution and sending more arms to either side of the conflict will only increase the bloodshed and suffering, says international aid agency Oxfam.
The meeting of the two leaders comes at a critical time. At least 93,000 Syrians have already lost their lives in the conflict. Some eight million Syrians are in need of aid and over 1.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries, triggering the largest appeal for humanitarian assistance in UN history.
The US and Russia have expressed their support for a political process to put an end to the conflict but the Geneva peace conference announced by both countries in early May is yet to be scheduled.
“The leaders of the G8 countries are at a fork in the road. Instead of fanning the flames of the conflict by sending more weapons into Syria, the leaders should prioritise the pursuit of a political solution. The transfer of all arms and ammunition to Syria - whether to opposition forces or the government - must be immediately stopped,” said Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.
“The Syria crisis is the biggest humanitarian emergency in the world. The fighting has taken a devastating toll on Syrian people. The promised Geneva peace conference offers an important glimmer of hope on the diplomatic horizon to end the suffering. We cannot let it slip away. Millions of Syrians have been failed for too long by a divided international community.”
The international aid community is struggling to keep up with the humanitarian consequences of the conflict with the current UN appeals just 28 per cent funded.
Oxfam is calling on Presidents Obama and Putin to also help improve humanitarian access by using their influence on the Syrian Government and opposition groups to ensure aid reaches those most in need.
“Aid agencies are already struggling to cope with the huge demand but there are millions more people out of reach. Further intervention from Presidents Obama and Putin will help ensure that all those affected by the crisis can get the aid they so desperately need,” said Offenheiser.
While Presidents Obama and Putin have pledged to ensure full participation at the peace conference from all sides of the conflict, Oxfam is calling for representatives of the refugee community, women’s groups, and other non-military, independent civil society voices to be also included.
Oxfam works in Syria through local organisations and working in Lebanon and Jordan helping Syrian refugees.
The NGO is aiming to help 650,000 people in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in the next 12 months, it says.
* More on Oxfam: www.oxfam.org