Funds for humanitarian needs of Syrians: Turkey

Funds for humanitarian needs of Syrians: Turkey

ANKARA-Hürriyet Daily News
Funds for humanitarian needs of Syrians: Turkey

Ghalioun, leader of the opposition SNC, speaks during a meeting on Syria in Istanbul. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

As Western and Arab Nations pledged to send millions of dollars and non-lethal equipment to Syria’s opposition groups, Turkey’s current priority is to provide humanitarian needs, rather than to arm rebels, a Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“Our priority is to use those funds to provide principally humanitarian aids,” the official said.

The final statement of the Istanbul conference over the weekend did not make any explicit reference to the Syrian opposition’s pleas to arm rebels, but did include a diplomatic ambiguity for supporting the rebels’ struggle against the Syrian regime.

The Syrian opposition interprets the Friends of the Syria group’s declaration that it supports “legitimate measures taken by the Syrian population to protect themselves” as an endorsement of their request to arm rebels.

“Participant states declared that the Syrian people have the right to defend themselves and pledged to support the Syrian peoples’ defense. Each country will assess this individually and take a position accordingly,” Syrian National Council (SNC) leader Burhan Ghalioun said in a press conference late April 1., implying that it could be interpreted as a license to fund the rebels.

“There are real efforts and real commitments from several nations to finance the activities of the SNC,” Ghalioun said, declining to identify particular states and their commitments. “They have different plans. Each will coordinate with the SNC.”

In an attempt to support the Syrian opposition, the Friends group recognized the SNC as “the leading interlocutor of the opposition with the international community.” It also called the group “a legitimate representative of all Syrians,” granting the body yet more legitimacy.

Western powers, particularly the U.S., refrained from supporting the armament of rebels, voicing fears that such a policy could fuel even greater violence inside Syria. The U.S. instead declared that it would give the rebels communications equipment.

At the Friends conference, the SNC said that arms supplies to the opposition were not their preferred option, since there was a risk that this could escalate the killing of civilians, but it appealed for technical equipment to help the rebels co-ordinate their uprising against the al-Assad regime.

SNC says Qatar, Saudi Arabia ready to arm rebel fighters


The Friends of Syria Group’s decision to “express its support for legitimate measures taken by the Syrian population to protect themselves” paves the way for the arming of the opposition Free Syrian Army, Syrian National Council (SNC) Executive Committee member Mahmoud Osman has said.

“Some countries interpret this paragraph of the statement as allowing for the provision of communication materials, and some read this paragraph as allowing for the arming of the rebels.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ready to act, but neighboring countries like Turkey and Jordan don’t want this to happen for now,” Osman told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview yesterday.

Other neighbors of Syria, such as Lebanon and Iraq, would not give permission for arming of the opposition forces anyway, Osman added.

However, another international decision is needed to arm the opposition forces, and dissidents expect this kind of decision to be taken at the next Friends of Syria meeting, set to be held in May in Paris, Osman said.