US Intends To Provide $5Mln To White Helmets, UN Mechanism In Syria - State Department
The Trump administration intends to provide $5 million to the White Helmets and the United Nations investigating mechanism in Syria, State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement on Thursday
"At the direction of the President, subject to congressional approval, the United States intends to provide $5 million for the continuation of the vital, life-saving operations of the White Helmets in Syria and in support of the UN's International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism," the statement said.
The United Nations established the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on international crimes committed in Syria on December 21, 2016. The body is tasked with probing the most serious crimes committed in the Syrian conflict since 2011.
US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey announced the US initiative to fund the White Helmets and IIIM earlier on Thursday at the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, Palladino said.
"The United States Government strongly supports the work of the White Helmets," he said. "They have saved more than 114,000 lives since the conflict began, including victims of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's vicious chemical weapons attacks.
The White Helmets claims to be a group of volunteer rescue workers, who allegedly carry out rescue operations in rebel-held Syria and help local residents prepare for attacks.
The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons in the conflict, and has insisted that the White Helmets themselves carried out such attacks to justify foreign intervention. Russia has also cited evidence of the group's involvements in attacks, saying that claims about the alleged use of chemical weapons were aimed at justifying external military action.
"The Syrian regime and Russia deliberately target White Helmets' centers and volunteers; since 2013 more than 250 White Helmets have been killed - many in so called 'double-tap strikes' - and 60 White Helmets' centers have been damaged or destroyed by Russian and regime airstrikes and the regime," he said.
Syria has been in the grip of a civil war for over six years. Government forces are fighting against Syrian opposition groups, who strive to overthrow President Bashar Assad, as well as numerous extremist and terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Fatah al Sham, both of which are outlawed in Russia.