G-8 'appalled' by Syria death toll, urge aid for UN appeal

LONDON (AFP) - G8 foreign ministers meeting in London said on Thursday they were "appalled" by the rising death toll of more than 70,000 in the Syrian conflict and urged all countries to boost aid to a United Nations appeal for the country.

But they made no mention of supplying arms to the rebels as the opposition have demanded, saying only that there should be
greater "humanitarian" assistance for those caught up in a conflict that is now in its third year.

In a statement issued by the ministers after wrapping up two days of talk, they "expressed deep concerns about the increasing human tragedy of the conflict in Syria".

"They were appalled that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict and that there are now more than a million Syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR in neighbouring countries, and more than two million internally displaced persons in Syria", they said.

"They called on all countries to join with them in maximising their contributions to the latest UN appeals and to provide them with direct support in order to help them face this challenging situation."

The ministers reaffirmed their support for United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and for finding a political transition in Syria, they said.

The statement also urged all sides in the conflict, which has now entered its third year, to respect human rights.

It said any use of chemical weapons "would demand a serious international response".

The G8 ministers called for "greater humanitarian assistance and for improved and safe access to the Syrian people by humanitarian agencies in co-ordination with all parties to the conflict."

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Syrian opposition leaders on the sidelines of the talks on Wednesday to discuss their demands for arms to fight President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But US officials said Mr Kerry made "no promises", with Western nations concerned that any weapons supplied to Syrian rebels could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

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