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EU vows aid to rebuild Syrian city

European Union countries have pledged assistance to rebuild basic services and local government in the Syrian city of Aleppo if a UN plan to halt the fighting there can be implemented.

The success of the plan "is crucial for political reasons, for security reasons, for the refugees", EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. "And also as a symbol, of what Syria can be and what Syria should not be."

Meeting in Brussels, foreign ministers of the 28 EU nations expressed full commitment to UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura's efforts to seek localised "freezes of hostility" in Syria.

Yesterday, the ministers held a separate meeting with Mr de Mistura.

The ministers said: "The EU will seek ways to provide practical support to his efforts, notably by contributing to the revival of local governance and administration, to the restoration of basic services and to the return to normalcy in areas of reduced violence, in particular in Aleppo, as conditions allow."

However, the ministers expressed serious concerns over what they said was intensified military action against opposition forces by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which they said is a threat to the UN plan.

The ministers also said that for there to be a reduction of violence, effective monitoring is needed, preferably under UN Security Council auspices.

"The EU recalls that cases of forced surrender imposed by the Assad regime through starvation sieges were labelled fallaciously as local cease-fires in the past," the ministers said.

The European Union has mobilised three billion euro (£2.4 billion) to date for humanitarian assistance to Syria and neighbouring countries affected by the three and a half years of fighting.

The bloc views Mr de Mistura's efforts to achieve a strategic de-escalation of violence as a basis for a political process that could lead to the end of the Assad regime.

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