International community moving toward supplying arms to Syrian rebels: SNC spokesperson

International community moving toward supplying arms to Syrian rebels: SNC spokesperson

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
International community moving toward supplying arms to Syrian rebels: SNC spokesperson

SNC leader Mouaz al-Khatib listens during a press conference, following the Friends of Syrian People core group meeting in Istanbul on April 21. The group is expecting more help from the world in the near future, a coalition spokesman says. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The Syrian National Coalition expects members of the Friends of the Syrian People to provide arms to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Mohamed Yaser Tabbara, the official spokesman of the coalition's prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, said April 20.

Asked whether one of the concrete steps taken in April 20’s meeting of the Friends group could be a decision to supply arms to the FSA, Tabbara said: "We hope so. The international community is moving in that direction. They're taking steps in that direction."

Free Syrian Army (FSA) Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idris, however, told Anatolia news agency that he had no hope of any arms supply decision being taken at the meeting.

The United States and the European Union are providing non-lethal arms to the FSA but they are not providing lethal arms due to the fear that supplies could end up in the hands of extremists. The EU's arms ban to the Syrian opposition ends in May and France and the U.K. are pressuring other member countries to lift the ban. However, other EU members oppose this demand and are in favor of renewing the arms ban treaty.

Tabbara told the Hürriyet Daily News at the Core Friends of the Syrian People meeting held earlier April 20 in Istanbul that they had clearly presented their demands ahead of this meeting and that the ball was now in the international community's court.

"We've put a list of concrete demands in front of the international community that includes preventing strategic strikes of SCUD and ballistic missiles and that includes taking out the ability of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. We've articulated the opposition's position very, very clearly and we hope the international community responds," Tabbara said.

He said the SNC was gradually obtaining more support from Western states. "Mr. Hitto has been inside Syria several times for important discussions, whether in military or civilian councils. Now, since last week, Mr. Hitto has been invited to come to London to meet [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry and [British Foreign Secretary William] Hague,” he said.

The steps undertaken by Hitto have convinced Western officials of his ability to work for reconciliation, said Tabbara. “There has been a clear indication that after hearing Mr. Hitto's plans and hearing the fact that he will be working with the government of Syria – inviting them for a new era of rebuilding a Syrian state without corruption – they will give their support. In the next few weeks there will be manifestations of these commitments.”

Asked whether there might be cooperation between the FSA and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Tabbara said they expected to receive the support of Syrian Kurds soon. "Yes, of course, absolutely. The coalition is reaching out very aggressively toward those Kurdish communities, and we hope that within the next few weeks that will happen.”