Western and Arab backers of the Syrian opposition have agreed to provide urgent military aid to the opposition in order to contain the counter-offensive by the government forces of President Bashar Assad.
Ministers from the 11 core members of the Friends of Syria group
agreed "to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and
equipment to the opposition on the ground", the statement
released at the end of their meeting in Qatar said.
The statement didn’t oblige all the countries to send weapons to
Syria, saying that each state could provide support "in its
own way, in order to enable (the rebels) to counter brutal
attacks by the regime and its allies", Reuters reports.
The aid is set to be channeled through the Syrian opposition's Supreme Military Council, which the group hopes will prevent weapons from falling into the hands of Islamist radicals, including the Al-Qaeda affiliates from Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Friends of Syria Group includes such states as the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Turkey as well as the rebel’s hardcore supporters Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The group was initiated by France's then-President Nicolas Sarkozy; the first meeting was held in Tunisia in February 2012.
The ministers also condemned "the intervention of Hezbollah
militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq" into Syria,
demanding that their immediate withdrawal.
The fighters from Lebanese Shiite movement, Hezbollah, reportedly
played a significant role in the recapture of the strategic
border town of Qusair by Assad’s forces two weeks ago.
The Friends of Syria expressed their concern with the growing
sectarian nature of the conflict and the foreign interventions
"threaten the unity of Syria (and) broaden the conflict"
across the region.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, confirmed that the Obama
administration is committed to a peace plan for the country,
which includes a conference in Geneva and a transitional
government picked both by Assad and the opposition.
He explained that the rebels need the support "for the purpose
of being able to get to Geneva and to be able to address the
imbalance on the ground."
The US has so far said little about its own assistance to the
Syrian opposition, despite president Obama announcing that Assad
has crossed the ‘red line’ with the alleged use of chemical
weapons against the opposition troops.
On Friday, Russian Foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned the US and its allies from supporting the Syrian opposition.
“If now they’ll be moving in the direction of what some
opposition leaders are saying – namely, let’s first restore
military balance on the ground and then we’ll go the conference.
This’ll be a disaster for all diplomatic efforts because this
would never end,” he told Bloomberg.
The Foreign Minister said Washington must choose whether it
really wants to stage a peace conference or keep fueling the
rebels’ hopes of victory as it’s impossible to do both things at
the same time.
The Geneva 2 conference, which was proposed by Lavrov and Kerry,
is designed to become a follow-up to the last year’s
international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for
It was originally planned to take place in mid-June, with no new
date for the event being announced so far.
The civil war, which is raging in Syria for over two years –
since March 2011, has already claimed nearly 100,000 lives.