US struggles to show new push on Syria
DOHA – Agence France-Presse
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he leaves Doha en route to New Delhi June 23, 2013. Kerry will be in New Delhi for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue after concluding meetings regarding the Syrian conflict and Afghan peace bid during his visit to Qatar. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/PoolU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has vowed new support for Syria’s rebels but beyond tougher talk, it remains unclear how much has changed.
Kerry met with fellow opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime during talks June 22 in the Gulf Arab monarchy of Qatar, a stalwart supporter of the Sunni Muslim rebels.
Qatar said that the talks agreed on a “secret” plan to ramp up assistance to rebels fighting the conflict that has claimed nearly 100,000 lives. But Kerry declined to lay out specifics other than to insist that - after three similar meetings among foreign ministers - this time the situation has changed.
“It’s not anything we say today that will make the difference to Assad; it’s what happens in the days and weeks and months ahead - and I hope not too many months,” Kerry told reporters. “But the reality is what happened here today is different because the situation on the ground is different,” Kerry said. He pointed to U.S. President Barack Obama’s stated willingness to step up support for the rebels after concluding that al-Assad defied his warnings by using chemical weapons.
The rebels have reported receiving new equipment from “friendly” countries - a possible allusion to Gulf Arab states - but the United States, France and Britain have been quiet on what they have provided.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, meeting with Kerry, said that all but two countries agreed in the Doha talks on plans to support the rebels. He insisted that Qatar, which has played an increasingly outsized role in the region, was only sending support to the mainstream Free Syrian Army.
However, Iran has denounced a decision by Western and Arab countries to send weapons to Syrian, the official IRNA news agency reported yesterday. “Those who support sending weapons to Syria are responsible for the massacre of innocents and for the insecurity in the region,” the agency cited Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as saying.