Syrian forces wait near the Syrian-Turkish border
Internally displaced Syrians fleeing advancing pro-government Syrian forces wait near the Syrian-Turkish border after they were given permission by the Turkish authorities to enter Turkey, in Khirbet Al-Joz, Latakia countryside February 2, 2016. Reuters

Global leaders have pledged more than AU$15 billion in aid to Syria amid the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The promises were made at an international donors’ conference in London on Thursday that addressed the needs of the six million Syrians displaced by war in their own country, and more than four million refugees taken in by other countries.

Australia pledged a $25 million increase in its aid contribution to Syria and Iraq, bringing the total amount of its humanitarian assistance since 2011 to $258 million.

Charities at the event had hoped that Australia would donate more to the cause, but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended the country’s action, addressing an un-costed multi-year assistance package to help Jordan and Lebanon cope with their high influx of incoming Syrian refugees.

“It is vital that Syrian refugees have the opportunity to contribute to their host countries and the communities within, and to develop the skills necessary to help rebuild their country after the conflict is over,” she said at the conference.

“Without such opportunities, we risk a lost generation.”

Australia’s pledge came after Germany and the United Kingdom vowed to provide more than $2 billion each, overwhelmingly pleasing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis,” the Secretary General said.

“Today’s pledges will enable humanitarian workers to continue reaching millions of people with lifesaving aid.”

But the meeting was clouded by suspension of peace talks and deep fighting on the ground, and a new discussion about adding ground troops with Saudi Arabia’s backing.

The Arab nation is ready to join all ground operations carried out by the US-led coalition against Daesh in the Middle East, a general from the kingdom said.

“If there is any willingness in the coalition to go in the ground operation, we will contribute positively in that,” Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told the AFP.

It is the first time Saudi Arabia has made a promise to supply boots on the ground, and did so in the announcement of the formation of a multi-national Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism.

Saudi Arabia also pledged an additional $100 million in funding for Syrians at the overnight conference in London.

With the desperate situation on the ground in Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told world leaders that Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies were closing in on rebel strongholds in the country’s north.

Up to 70,000 Syrians are on the move towards Turkey to escape aerial bombings on the city of Aleppo, with close to 40,000 Syrians in the Aleppo province fleeing their homes and already massing at the Turkish border.