Friends of Syria June 22, 2013 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
DOHA - Western and Arab countries opposed to President Bashar Assad
agreed at talks in Qatar on Saturday to give urgent military support to
Syrian rebels fighting for his overthrow, and to channel it through a
Western-backed rebel military command.
Ministers from the 11 main
countries which form the Friends of Syria group including the United
States, European and regional Sunni Muslim powers, agreed "to provide
urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on
the ground, each country in its own way in order to enable them to
counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies".
condemned "the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran
and Iraq", demanding that they withdraw immediately.
After a series of military offensives by Assad's troops, including the Hezbollah-backed recapture of a strategic border town
two weeks ago, US President Barack Obama said the United States would
increase military support for the
Two Gulf sources said
on Saturday that Saudi Arabia, which has taken a lead role among Arab
opponents of Assad, had also accelerated delivery of advanced weapons to
"In the past week there have been
more arrivals of these advanced weapons. They are getting them more
frequently," one source said, without giving details. Another Gulf
source described them as "potentially balance-tipping" supplies.
Rebel fighters say they need anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to
stem the fightback by Assad's forces in a civil war that has already
killed 93,000 people and driven 1.6 million refugees into neighboring
The increasingly sectarian dynamic of
the war pits mainly Sunni Muslims against forces loyal to Assad, from
the Alawite minority which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and has
split the Middle East along Sunni-Shi'ite lines.
Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose
country has been one of the most open backers of the anti-Assad rebels,
said that supplying them with weapons was the only way to resolve the
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"Force is necessary to achieve justice.
And the provision of weapons is the only way to achieve peace in
Syria's case," Sheikh Hamad told ministers at the start of the
"We cannot wait due to disagreement among
Security Council members over finding a solution to the problem," he
said. He also called on Lebanon's government to halt intervention by
Lebanese factions in the neighboring conflict.
Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas led the assault by Assad's forces to
recapture the town of Qusair earlier this month.
Speaking before Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Doha, a US
official said the United States wanted to ensure that "every kind of
assistance" offered by the 11 countries attending the meeting go through
the Supreme Military Council, led by General Salim Idriss, a former
commander in Assad's army.
A diplomat who had
seen the draft communique of the meeting said it also spoke of putting
pressure on Assad to allow greater access for humanitarian aid after the
United Nations launched a $5 billion appeal earlier this month - its
But he said there was no mention of
establishing a no-fly zone - a move which diplomats have said the
United States was studying but which the White House has played down -
or specific mention of weapons supplies to the rebels.COUNTERING JIHADI
The meeting in Qatar brings
together ministers of countries that support the anti-Assad rebels -
France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,
United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States.
Western countries hope by channeling assistance through Idriss they
can reduce the influence in the opposition ranks of radical Islamist
groups such as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated that London had
yet to take a formal decision on arming the rebels, but said that only
by strengthening the opposition could the West hope to bring about talks
for a political settlement.
"We won't get a
political solution if Assad and his regime think they can eliminate all
legitimate opposition by force, and so we do have to give assistance to
that opposition," he told reporters before the start of Saturday's
The United States and Russia, which back
opposing sides in the conflict, hope to bring them together for
negotiations in Geneva originally scheduled for this month. Hague said
there was little prospect of that happening "in the next few
"This crisis is on a worse trajectory, it
is set to get worse ... I don't want to underestimate the severity and
the bleakness of it," Hague said.
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