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US Bolsters Humanitarian Aid for Syrian Conflict

Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak to the media before a meeting in Ankara, Sept. 12, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with Turkish officials to push an international coalition to combat the Islamic State militant group, has announced nearly $500 million in new humanitarian aid for Syrians affected by the militants' siege.

The new U.S. funding focuses both on civilians displaced inside Syria and the more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. More than half of Syria's population has been displaced by conflict.

This largest single U.S. humanitarian contribution will go through the United Nations appeal for Syria. It brings the total of U.S. humanitarian assistance to more than $2.9 billion since fighting started in 2011.

The new funding comes as part of the Obama administration's broader push to rally neighboring states to fight Islamic State militants.

Sec. State John Kerry, travels Sept. 9 -12
Sec. State John Kerry, travels Sept. 9 -12

It targets more than $240 million for Syrians inside their country, including Palestinians, and nearly $48 million for those in Turkey. The allocations provide more than $100 million for refugees in Lebanon. more than $56 million for those in Jordan, nearly $30 million for those in Iraq and $15 million for those in Egypt.

Kerry's visit to Turkey

Turkey is central to the effort to stop Islamic State's funding and oil smuggling and to restrict the flow of foreign fighters. Kerry's visit here provides another chance to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who joined the secretary in Saudi Arabia Thursday for talks with Arab leaders who agreed to join the coalition against Islamic State fighters.

But Turkey declined to sign a joint communique in Jeddah about sharing in a comprehensive fight to repudiate the group's "hateful ideology," and, as appropriate, to join "in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign."

Turkey has a long border with Syria, through which many of the Islamic State's most recent recruits are thought to have passed. At the meeting in Jeddah, Turkish officials said they have denied entry to more than 6,000 potential recruits and have deported 1,000 others.

In an interview with VOA, Kerry said it is a challenge Turkey is taking seriously.

"Many foreign fighters have moved through Turkey. So there is a lot to discuss with Turkey … but obviously they have some immediate sensitivities and we are thoughtful about those,” Kerry said. “So we're going to sit down and talk about the road ahead."

Those sensitivities include Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria as well as the role of ethnic Kurds in the fight.

Kerry says that in a coalition of as many as 40 countries, each will contribute in their own way.

"Some countries have to tighten up the flow of money, others have to tighten up the flow of weapons, others have to tighten up the flow of foreign fighters,” he said. “There are all kinds of concerted efforts that are going to have to be focused on in order to make this work."

After Turkey, Kerry travels to Egypt for talks with the new government there on fighting the Islamic State and backing the cease-fire in Gaza.