Obama to pledge $300M in Syria humanitarian aid

World leaders are attending the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, where they are discussing the Syrian civil war and a trade deal between the EU and the U.S.

ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland — President Barack Obama announced more than $300 million in new humanitarian aid on Monday to address the Syrian crisis and to help neighboring countries cope with the 1.6 million refugees who have fled the civil war.

Obama announced the aid for food, medical equipment, water and shelter during a dinner with leaders of the G8 nations, which spent time addressing how best to end the two-year civil war.

The United States is also giving the Syrian opposition new military aid - a topic of controversy at the G8 summit - but has not disclosed what type of assistance it will provide.

The White House said more than $128 million would be spent on new humanitarian aid inside Syria to buy emergency medical supplies, clothing and shelter, and American wheat for flour.

More than $72 million will go to food vouchers and other aid for Lebanon, where more than 80,000 refugees are expected by December, many going to Palestinian refugee camps that were overcrowded to begin with, the White House said.

Another $45 million will go to Jordan to help feed 192,000 refugees, and more than $24 million to Iraq to help build and supply camps.

Turkey will receive more than $22 million for items like refugee tents, blankets, kitchen equipment and counseling for children displaced by the war. Egypt will receive more than $6 million in aid.

The United States has been the biggest donor of humanitarian aid during the two-year civil war in Syria, donating more than $800 million in total.

World Vision, an aid group working in Syria and neighboring countries, said the money would help.

"The world has so far failed to keep up with the basic needs of people impacted by the conflict," said Nathaniel Hurd, a policy advisor with the group, urging other donor countries to follow suit.

Related: US considering no-fly zone after Syria crosses nerve gas 'red line'

Meanwhile, Obama and top European Union officials said Monday that talks on a sweeping trade deal between the European Union and the United States, the world's two largest trading partners, are to get underway in Washington next month.

"The EU-U.S. relationship is the biggest in the world," Obama said after meeting with European leaders, citing roughly the $1 trillion in trade in goods and services between the two every year.

"This potentially ground-breaking partnership would deepen those ties."

The head of the EU's executive arm, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, said a deal could bring "huge economic benefits" to both sides. Cameron said the trade pact could create 2 million jobs and "could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history."

Related: Cameron pushes US-EU free trade zone before G-8 summit

The aim of the trans-Atlantic deal would be to promote economic growth by eliminating the import tariffs and changing regulations that keep goods made on one side of the Atlantic from being sold on the other.

When the start of negotiations were first announced by Obama in his State of the Union address in March, it was estimated that a deal could boost each economy by more than a half-percentage point annually and significantly lower the cost of goods and services for consumers.

Officials have said a deal could be reached next year. But securing one will be tricky. The talks will be watched warily by interest groups and would have to be approved by each side's lawmakers and leaders before the new trade arrangements take effect.

The EU already has yielded to pressure. When it was putting together its mandate for the negotiations last week, France managed to get state assistance of the TV and movie industries taken off the table. Barroso said the issue could be revisited later. Meanwhile, U.S. labor officials also have expressed skepticism.

The statement of support for the trade deal came just before the opening of the Group of Eight Summit among the leaders of leading industrial nations: The United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia, plus the European Union.

The summit is taking place under heavy security, with about 7,000 police lining roads and checking vehicles.

A protest Monday attracted far fewer than the 2,000 expected by police. About 200 people gathered before the march at a library in Enniskillen. Activists waved flags and placards for a range of causes as a heavy-metal band played, including gay marriage, anti-capitalist criticism of the G-8 forum itself, and opposition to fracking.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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