106. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the Syria Donor Conference; the measures Ireland is undertaking to press EU and UN member states to pursue a full diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict and increase humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians who require better solutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20160/18 asked on 08 May 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Ireland has consistently been a strong donor to the victims of the Syria crisis. At the Second Brussels Conference for Syria and the Region, Ireland pledged €25 million in humanitarian support for 2018. This brings Ireland’s support since 2012 to over €100 million – our largest ever response to a single crisis. Our funding provides supports to those in need inside Syria, as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region.

Given my responsibility for International Development, I led Ireland’s delegation to the Conference and met with key EU, UN and NGO humanitarian and political partners. These included EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. At these meetings we reiterated our concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation and our commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Ireland is also concerned with supporting longer-term responses for Syrians and host communities affected by the crisis. To this end, we also made a commitment to provide multi-annual, predictable assistance in response to the Syria crisis beyond 2018. In particular, support for learning and protection of young people is an issue that Ireland is committed to do more on. I was honoured therefore to join the Political Champions for Education in Conflict initiative, spearheaded by the Malala Fund and the Education Cannot Wait Fund, at the Conference.

Humanitarian assistance alone will not address the root causes of this crisis however. A comprehensive, sustainable, Syrian-owned and Syrian-led resolution is urgently required to provide lasting relief to the Syrian people. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura is leading political negotiations to end the conflict based on the 2012 Geneva Communique and UN Security Council resolution 2254. Ireland and the EU fully support this process. The EU provides direct assistance to the UN-led Geneva peace talks and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground. At international level, we use every opportunity to highlight our deep concerns in relation to the Syria crisis. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade discussed the situation in Syria with his EU counterparts at their informal meeting on 15 February and again at the Foreign Affairs Council meetings on 26 February, 19 March and 16 April. At their most recent meeting, EU Foreign Ministers reiterated their support for the UN-led political negotiations to end the conflict, and the urgent need to reinvigorate the political track.