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MIDEAST > Syrian rebels to meet West ahead of key G-8 summit

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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A rebel shoots his weapon near Kindi hospital in Aleppo, which is under the control of the regime forces. UN fears a Qusayr-like bloodshed in the city. REUTERS photo

A rebel shoots his weapon near Kindi hospital in Aleppo, which is under the control of the regime forces. UN fears a Qusayr-like bloodshed in the city. REUTERS photo

The Syrian rebels will ask Western countries for weapons, a no fly zone, and to push Russia to remove Iranian and Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, at a meeting to be held in Istanbul at the weekend.

The meeting will come ahead of next week’s G-8 meeting, where the Syrian crisis will top the agenda.

Western officials will meet the commander of the Syrian armed opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), Salim Idris, on June 15 in Turkey to discuss new aid, diplomats said.

Louay al-Mokdad, the political and media coordinator of the FSA, confirmed the meeting to the Hürriyet Daily News.

“There will be a meeting on June 15 with some foreign countries. We will discuss the situation on the ground and we will ask for weapons from them, a no fly zone, and we will ask them to push Russia to remove Iranian and Hezbollah fighters from inside Syria,” he said when contacted by phone.

Western countries hope that by channeling assistance through Idris, a former senior commander in al-Assad’s army, they can reduce the influence of groups like al-Nusra, which Washington views as a front for al-Qaeda fighters from Iraq.

Renewed push for Syria

Western countries have so far refused to send arms to the rebels directly, although they have provided support for Arab states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia that do. Last month, France and Britain forced the European Union to lift an arms embargo, clearing the way to start shipping arms. The meeting came ahead of the G-8 meeting.

World leaders from the United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan will meet between June 17 and 18 in Northern Ireland for a renewed push in the Syrian crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin will fly to Britain a day before G-8 summit for Syria talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

World leaders also aim to add new momentum for a peace conference proposed by the U.S. and Russia in May. That conference in Geneva was first envisioned for May but has since been postponed until July at the earliest.

Sevim Songün Demirezen contributed to this report from Daily News Istanbul bureau.

June/14/2013

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