April 12, 2016 / 2:16 PM / 3 years ago

World Bank urges reconstruction strategy as way to foster peace in Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Development organizations should support an ambitious reconstruction plan in order to help foster a sustainable peace in Syria, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Reconstruction and peace in Syria “are two sides of the same coin,” the World Bank said in its short-term economic outlook report on the Middle East and North Africa.

“A credible reconstruction strategy, therefore, can be used as an instrument to bring warring parties closer to a peace deal in the first place,” the report’s authors said.

Syria has been ravaged for the past five years by a civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced about half the population and caused a refugee crisis in neighboring countries and throughout Europe.

Growth in the Middle East and North Africa region will average 3 percent for 2016, according to the World Bank’s latest predictions.

The World Bank did not spell out how substantial development aid could be made available. A ceasefire in place since last month between the government and rebel forces is near collapse, with more peace talks planned in Geneva this week.

Syrians lack access to basic services such as clean water, reliable electricity, healthcare and education and there is a need for development institutions to immediately work “more actively” with neutral and well-established local groups outside of the Syrian government, the report said.

“By securing grant funding and technical assistance, international organizations can provide needed relief in the country while engaging in a knowledge generating process,” the report said. “This would allow the international community to gradually scale up its assistance once peace is reached.”

More than 70 percent of Syrian refugees want to return home when fighting stops, the report said, adding that the international community, including the World Bank, can make future reconstruction commitments an instrument for peace negotiations.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Diane Craft

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