France warned on Tuesday that it would be a mistake for Europe to take in all refugees persecuted by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, and called for a plan to ensure the Middle East’s diversity remained despite the crisis.
About 60 countries, including ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, met in Paris on Tuesday to agree measures aimed at easing the return of refugees, encouraging regional governments to bring minorities into the political fold and ensure no impunity for those guilty of crimes against humanity.
“It’s very difficult, but if all these refugees come to Europe or elsewhere, then Daesh has won the game,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RTL radio, using an Arabic name for Islamic State.
“The objective (of this conference) is that the Middle East remains the Middle East, that means a region of diversity where there are Christians, Yazidis, etc,” he said.
Speaking after the conference, Fabius said several countries would announce financial pledges in the coming months for projects ranging from reconstruction of infrastructure to restoring basic services or training local police.
He said France had decided to give a further €25 million of aid on top of the €100 million it already gives. The money will be used for projects including mine clearance in the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani or housing in Erbil in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Responding to calls by UN agencies for more funding in neighbouring countries, Fabius said €15 million would be set aside for refugee camps in the region.
“There is a humanitarian urgency,” President Francois Hollande said at the opening of the conference.
“If we do not offer more help to the countries that welcome (refugees), if we do not give more support to the families that are in these refugee camps or are displaced in neighbouring countries, then not only will there be tragedies… but there will be this exodus.”
France began reconnaissance flights over Syria on Tuesday with a view to launching air strikes against Islamic State. It also plans to welcome 24,000 Syrian refugees from camps in the Middle East over the next two years.