EU to commit around 2 billion euros in Syrian aid at donor meeting

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to promise some 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in Syrian refugee aid at an international donor conference on Thursday, officials said, although much will be spent outside Syria barring an end to its civil war. European governments and EU institutions in Brussels are seeking to respond to a call by Britain, Germany and Norway, which are hosting the conference in London along with the United Nations and Kuwait, to double humanitarian aid to the region. "We need to ensure that all Syria's neighbors are supported," an EU official said, referring to Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. "Inside Syria, London needs to demonstrate that the EU and others are ready to provide humanitarian access to all areas as soon as a ceasefire is agreed," the official added, although some aid would also be delivered inside the country. Heads of state and government and ministers from countries around the world will converge on London for the "SupportingSyria and the Region" conference, which aims to raise funds for humanitarian crises caused by the Syrian war. U.N. agencies are appealing for a total of $7.73 billion to cope with Syria's needs this year with a further $1.2 billion required by regional governments for their own plans to deal with the impact of Syria's conflict. The European Union is to provide exact details of its aid pledges at the conference on Thursday. It gave about 1.1 billion euros to the region in the last donor gathering in Kuwait in January 2015, officials said. Much of the EU aid, which will be in the form of water, sanitation, food, shelter, and medicines, will be in the form of grants and loans with low interest rates and long grace periods. Most of Syria's pre-war population have been forced out of their homes by the war - 5 million as refugees who have fled abroad and 6.5 million displaced within the country. In Syria on Monday, rebels fought back against a government offensive near a supply route into the city of Aleppo and said there had been no let-up in Russian air strikes despite a pledge of goodwill moves by Damascus to spur peace talks. (Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich)