U.S. To Give Syrian Rebels Extra $123 Million
April 21, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has declared that the United States will provide opposition forces in Syria with an additional $123 million in nonlethal assistance.
Kerry made the announcement in a statement issued after a meeting in Istanbul early on April 20 of the Syrian opposition and their international backers hoping to oust Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
'For the last several months we have steadily increased the nonlethal assistance to more than 127 million USD and that aid is providing food now, medical kits now and support for local leaders who are trying to lay the ground work for a stable and a democratic future,' Kerry said,
Kerry added that the Syrian opposition and its foreign backers had agreed that future aid would be channeled through the rebels' supreme military command.
'Today we, the supporters of the Syrian opposition came together -- the ministers of all the countries that are here tonight -- each of them committed not only to the first choice of a political peaceful solution but committed to guarantee that they will separate and make certain that all aid goes through the supreme military command, through General Idris.'
Kerry accused the Assad regime of using 'ballistic missiles' against civilians.
He added that the 11-member 'Friends of Syria' grouping was committed to a peaceful transition in Syria.
Syria's main opposition National Coalition said it firmly rejected 'all forms of terrorism' and vowed that weapons it attains would not fall into the wrong hands.
'Without any discrimination whatsoever we are willing to make sure that every civilian in Syria will be free and will be able to determine their own fate for the future of Syria,' said Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib. 'We want justice to be established in Syria. These political elements in Syria do not have the will to avenge the regime, so we will never allow discrimination or allow violence to wage over Syrian territory any longer.'
The opposition has repeatedly called on key international backers to provide heavy weaponry to the rebels fighting to oust Assad.
That demand was not met at Istanbul. Western powers have expressed concerns that such weapons would worsen Syria's two-year conflict or end up reaching radical Islamists.
The Syrian opposition called at the Istanbul gathering for 'surgical airstrikes' to destroy the missile arsenal of Assad's troops.
The United Nations estimates that the fighting in Syria has killed more than 70,000 people.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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