Syria Rebels in London to seek more support
British Foreign Secretary Hague (R) greets US Secretary of State Kerry ahead of a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.Syrian rebels met yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and G-8 foreign ministers in London as the United States mulls ways to step up support for outgunned opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The United States every single day thinks about what more we can do to help bring this horrible situation to an end,” a senior U.S. administration official said, asking not to be identified. The aim was to “move to a transition government that reflects the legitimate desires of the people,” the official said. The Obama administration’s next step in aid to Syrian rebels is expected to be a broader package of non-lethal assistance, including body armor and night-vision goggles, according to administration officials.
Kerry met with Syrian opposition Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto and other top coalition members on the sidelines of the G-8 foreign ministers meeting, for talks hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Hitto and Syrian National Coalition vice presidents George Sabra and Soheir Atassi were expected to push their demands for weapons to help topple al-Assad.
The U.S. and EU are currently providing non-lethal aid such as communications equipment, and are beginning to distribute food and medical supplies to the Free Syrian Army. The G-8 foreign ministers were scheduled to discuss the Syrian crisis at a dinner yesterday night, and were expected to issue “quite a strong statement” today at the end of their two-day meeting, the U.S. official told reporters in London.
But the official admitted there had been “some vigorous discussion” about the statement, with some objections particularly from the Russian side, which remains a key ally of the al-Assad regime.
Hague said before the talks that “top of the agenda will be dealing with Syria and the situation in Syria, which continues to get worse.”
Previously, he said he had discussed the issue of arming the rebels with the three visiting Syrian opposition figures on April 9. Britain and France would continue to push for the lifting of an EU arms embargo to Syria so they can arm the rebels, Hague added. The embargo is due to expire at the end of May but other EU nations are largely in favor of renewing it.
Syria’s opposition umbrella group the National Coalition is recognized by the United States and many other Western and Arab countries as the sole representative of the Syrian people. The Syrian opposition was formally granted an Arab League seat last month.
Iran, Syria’s main ally, will also loom large at the G-8 talks after nuclear negotiations between Tehran and world powers ended in deadlock at the weekend.
The G-8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.