Nations opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have agreed to give urgent support to Syrian rebels. They also called for Hezbollah fighters from Iran and Iraq to withdraw from the civl war.
Ministers from the 11 main countries that form the Friends of Syria group agreed “to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground.” They also condemned “the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq,” calling on them to withdraw immediately.
Qatar hosted the talks, and on Saturday Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim tried to dispel concerns voiced in the US and in Europe about arms given to rebels ending up in the hands of extremists. “If we send weapons, they will be delivered to the right quarters,” Jassim said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said participants had agreed that military support for the opposition would be according to each member country’s initiative. The Friends of Syria includes Germany, the US, Qatar, Britain, France, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Germany has repeatedly said that, under its constitution, it cannot directly deliver arms to any party in a civil war and that it does not intend to send weapons to any combatants. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after Saturday’s meeting that the group’s main goal was to do more to help the rebels.
“This can happen in differing ways,” Westerwelle said. “But we are all convinced that a political solution is needed here.”
Kerry said that support for Syrian rebels was not aimed at ensuring a military victory for them but to strengthen them at proposed peace talks with the government. “Reliable civilian governance and a stronger and more effective armed opposition will better enable the opposition to be able to provide the counterweight to the initiative of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad,” Kerry said.
US military presence in Jordan
Jordan’s prime minister has confirmed that 900 US troops are now based in the country, Syria’s neighbor to the south. Abdullah Ensour said on Saturday that 200 experts were there to train on how to handle a chemical attack and 700 were manning a Patriot missile defense system and F-16 fighter jets, which Washington deployed earlier this month.
jm/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)