Australian FM hits back at critics over Syrian aid contribution

Canberra, Feb 5 (IANS) Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has fired back at aid agencies after they criticised Australia’s $18 million contribution to help the war-torn regions in Syria and Iraq.

The Australian government has been lambasted by leading international aid agency Oxfam, as well as Care Australia, for its comparatively low, on a world-scale, foreign aid pledge, Xinhua reported on Friday.

Australia’s figure was dwarfed by the aid contributions from Germany ($2.59 billion by 2018), Britain ($1.66 billion) and the US ($940 million).

The announcement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, nominated for a Nobel peace prize last year for her humanitarian work in resettling Syrian displaced refugees, meant that Germany’s donation was 150 times larger than Australia’s, despite the European powerhouse only having four times Australia’s population.

Even Scandinavian minnow, Finland, with less than half Australia’s population, pledged twice as much.

But Bishop, who was attending the Syrian donors’ conference in London, rejected the criticism on Friday, saying the extra funds would take Australia’s total contribution past $170 million.

“Overall, our contribution to this crisis in terms of humanitarian, military and resettlement offers is a significant contribution by any measure,” Bishop said.

Bishop said Australia had contributed its fair share, in line with its domestic-budget requirements, and had to dip into an “emergency fund”, usually reserved for Pacific nations, to make the extra $18 million available.

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