ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) — The United Nations, faced with the possibility of deep U.S. funding cuts, is trying to mobilize more support from Europe, the Arab Gulf states and elsewhere, the U.N. chief said on Tuesday, adding that a time of growing global need is "not the moment to reduce solidarity."
Antonio Guterres spoke during a tour of the Zaatari camp for 80,000 Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. On Wednesday, he is to attend the annual summit of Arab leaders, this year hosted by Jordan.
From the refugee camp, Guterres appealed to Arab nations to set aside their differences and help end Syria's 6-year-old civil war.
Arab divisions have "allowed others to intervene or manipulate situations, creating instability, breeding conflict, and facilitating the life of terrorist organizations," he said.
The 22-member Arab League suspended Syria in 2011, several months after the outbreak of the conflict there. Key member states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, disagree over what role, if any, Syrian President Bashar Assad would play in a future political transition.
Turkey, Russia and Iran have become major players in the conflict, which has displaced millions of Syrians, including 5 million who fled to neighboring countries.
Guterres, who was formerly the head of the U.N. refugee agency, said more and more doors are being closed to refugees.
"This is the moment to say that if the world fails to support refugees, the world is only helping those like Daesh or al-Qaida that use these arguments in order to be able to recruit more people to put at risk our global security," he said.
Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the extremist Islamic State group.
Asked how the U.N. will deal with a possible sharp reduction of U.S. support, he said: "We will be mobilizing all other actors in Europe, in the Gulf, in many other parts of the world, to increase solidarity to the Syrian refugees and to all others" who need solidarity and humanitarian aid.
"This is not the moment to reduce solidarity," he said. "This is the moment to increase solidarity."
Earlier this month, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said reforming the U.N. and cutting U.S. contributions were "a promise made to the American people." She said at the time that the U.N. spends more money than it should and places a larger financial burden on the U.S. than on other countries.
The U.S. is the largest financial contributor to the U.N. and currently pays 22 percent of its regular budget and over 28 percent of its budget for the 16 peacekeeping missions, which are undergoing a review.
President Donald Trump's proposed budget calls for unspecified U.S. cuts in funding for the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, and caps American contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions at 25 percent of the total costs.
During the Zaatari visit, Guterres encouraged a group of girls, participants in an afternoon reading program, to do well in school so they can one day return to Syria and help become members of parliament.
At a camp community center, he shared his views on the conflict and ongoing Geneva peace talks with several women.
"It's a pity, so many years, and peace has not yet come to Syria," he said. "There are too many people involved in the Syria crisis ... too many countries. It is not easy. But we will go on. There is now a negotiation in Geneva. Let's hope it moves, but it's moving very slowly."