A two-day international conference on the future of Syria, hosted by the European Union and the United Nations, gets under way in Brussels today.

The gathering of participants from 85 countries comes against the backdrop of the recent alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, and the retaliatory airstrikes by Britain, France and the US.

With the civil war in its eighth year, it is hoped the meeting will boost international donations and relaunch the stalled UN peace process.

Minister for International Development Ciaran Cannon will attend the meeting and Ireland is expected to announce increased funding to the region tomorrow.

This is the second international conference on supporting Syria and the region.

In seven years of brutal civil war, hundreds of thousands of people have died, 13 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, and five million are displaced outside the country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has turned the tide of the war in his favour with the robust military support of Russia.

But regime air strikes and continuing rebel resistance means the conflict is nowhere near an end, and national reconciliation is even further away.

The EU is the biggest humanitarian donor, but it has been largely helpless in stopping the conflict.

Europe wants to be in a position to lead the post war reconstruction of Syria, if and when the conflict ends, but it will not provide any assistance to the Assad government.

Some rebel groups have wanted the EU to support further military pressure on Mr Assad to force him to the negotiating table, but other observers believe the EU will have to accept the reality of Mr Assad's military gains and will have to do business with him.

The EU's official position is that a military solution is not possible, although member states tacitly supported the airstrikes targeting the regime following the alleged chemical and nerve agent attacks, which killed more than 40 men, women and children in Douma two weeks ago.