CAIRO, EGYPT —
Foreign donors pledged more than $1.5 billion Wednesday to help the United Nations conduct relief operations for Syrian refugees.
Among the leading donors, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia each pledged $300 million to help fund U.N. humanitarian operations for Syrians.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the United States will contribute $155 million, while Bahrain pledged $25 million and Germany $13 million.
In closing remarks to the donor's meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it the largest response ever to a humanitarian pledging conference.
Ban urged the warring sides in Syria to halt their fighting, calling the situation in the country "catastrophic." He warned that in the meantime the exodus of Syrian refugees to neighboring states is likely to intensify.
Major refugee crisis
Arab leaders, Western diplomats and U.N. officials listened intently as conference participants detailed the financial needs to cope with the growing Syrian refugee crisis.
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah, who organized the conference, highlighted the human tragedy of the Syrian conflict and the international community's inability to cope with it.
Sabah said Arab states have been calling on the U.N. Security Council to find a solution to the Syrian crisis since it began almost two years ago. He urged council nations to overcome differences, saying history will judge the U.N. severely for its role in the tragedy.
Jordan's King Abdullah, whose country is sheltering more than 300,000 Syrian refugees, said Amman's resources have been stretched to the limit.
The Jordanian leader said it is imperative to set up the refugee aid fund to deal with the exceptional circumstances facing many Arab states because of the Syria conflict, and to offer support and resources to countries that have welcomed Syrian refugees.
Jordan, he said, has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and the cost has exhausted its resources.
It is estimated that more than 2 million Syrians have been displaced by the violence. The U.N. has registered 700,000 Syrian refugees, mostly in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
But U.N. officials say these numbers underestimate the extent of the exodus. Neighboring countries report the presence of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have not come forward to be registered.