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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

Trump says Saudi Arabia will assume US role in funding Syria reconstruction

Saudi Arabia in August pledged $100 million to help stabilise parts of Syria no longer held by ISIS

Chinese visitors arrive to the opening of a Syria rebuilding exhibition in Damascus. AP
Chinese visitors arrive to the opening of a Syria rebuilding exhibition in Damascus. AP

President Donald Trump said on Monday that Saudi Arabia would assume Washington's role in funding Syria’s reconstruction.

The announcement comes at a time when the US is moving to end its involvement in the nearly eight-year conflict.

It follows last week’s announcement of an abrupt US troop exit from the war-torn country.

The planned pull-out has raised questions over who would assume responsibility for reconstruction and stabilisation, especially in areas liberated from ISIS.

“Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.

“Isn’t it nice when immensely wealthy countries help rebuild their neighbours.”

Mr Trump did not specify how much money the kingdom was willing to commit to recovery efforts.

Saudi Arabia in August pledged $100 million (Dh367.25m) to help stabilise parts of Syria no longer held by ISIS.

Saudi Arabia has yet to issue a response to Mr Trump's announcement.

The National contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but they have yet to respond to a request for comment.

Syria’s postwar reconstruction is expected to cost $300 billion to $400 billion.

However, beyond rebuilding physical infrastructure, Syria is also in dire need of stabilisation efforts in areas cleared of ISIS, including disposing of unexploded ordnance left behind by militants, clearing roads, and restoring electricity and water.

Stabilisation, according to experts, is critical to ensuring the lasting defeat of ISIS and creating conditions that would allow refugees and internally displaced people to return.

The US has already contributed $875m in stabilisation and other non-humanitarian assistance since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

Earlier in August, the Trump administration ended funding for these projects. The US State Department said it would not spend the $230m set aside for Syria programmes and would instead shift that money to other areas.

The cut, US officials said, will be more than offset by an additional $300m pledged by coalition partners, including $100m promised by Saudi Arabia.

As fighting winds down in Syria, attention has turned towards rebuilding the country.

Neither the Syrian government nor its backers Russia and Iran have the resources to sponsor recovery efforts.

The European Union maintains that it will not fund reconstruction in the absence of a comprehensive political solution to the war.

Mr Trump’s decision to leave Syria prompted a wave of resignations from senior US officials, including Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Washington’s envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

Both Mr Mattis and Brett McGurk, who played an instrumental role in managing stabilisation efforts in areas liberated from ISIS in Syria, disagree with Mr Trump’s assessment that the extremist group has been defeated in the country.

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Updated: December 25, 2018 05:02 PM

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