Sunday 29 March 2020

The Netherlands stops supporting Syrian rebels, ahead of Idlib offensive


The Netherlands has stopped funding the Syrian opposition in the civil war against president Assad, foreign minister Stef Blok and trade minister Sigrid Kaag have told MPs in a briefing.

The chance that rebel forces will be able to win the civil war is, the ministers say, now ‘extremely limited’. Dutch support for the rebels has ‘not had the desired effects’, the ministers said. The Netherlands had set aside €70m to fund the opposition.

In addition to funding ‘moderate’ rebels, the Netherland had also put money into their police forces and to the White Helmets programme, the civilian rescue service. Funding for the first two programmes has stopped immediately while the White Helmet support will end in December.

The Netherlands will, however, continue to support Syrian people ‘which will be extremely necessary’ in the coming period, ministers said. Some three million people live in Idlib, which is the last rebel stronghold and where a major offensive by Assad supporters Russia is said to be about to take place.

In their briefing ministers are pessimistic about the current situation in Syria, saying that a military victory by Assad’s forces is ‘imminent’ and that the ‘inherent instability’ means the prospects for lasting peace are gloomy.

However, the Netherlands will continue to strive for a political solution and to support Syria’s neighbouring countries which have also been hit by the conflict, the letter said.

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