Syrian rebels to receive weapons in ‘few days’

Syrian rebels to receive weapons in ‘few days’

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Syrian rebels to receive weapons in ‘few days’

Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels prepare mortars at the frontline in the Sidi Meqdad area in Damascus. FSA media coordinator, Louay al-Muqdad, hailed the Friends of Syria group’s decision to arm rebels. REUTERS photo

Syria’s main opposition group the Syrian National Coalition’s (SNC) has said that they are expecting to receive arms from the northern and southern borders in a few days, without referring directly to Turkey, following the Friends of Syria group’s decision to give military support to rebels amid warnings from Damascus and Russia.

“There are two borders which we can get arms from: One of them is in the north and the other is in the south. As we cannot get arms from Lebanon where Hezbollah forces are deployed and Iraq, we expect to receive them either from the northern or the southern border,” Khaled Khoja, the group’s Turkey representative, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

Members of the Friends of Syria Group who gathered in the Qatari capital Doha on June 22 agreed on supplying them urgent military support. Ministers from the 11 countries, including Turkey, agreed “to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground, each country in its own way in order to enable them to counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies.”

Khoja said they were expecting to receive arms within this week. “As they have decided to ‘urgently’ supply arms to us, I suppose we will get them within this week,” he said.

Hailing the decision, media coordinator of the armed wing of the opposition, Free Syrian Army (FSA), Louay al-Muqdad, echoed Khoja’s words. “We’re satisfied with the decision. We were waiting for this. We need these weapons as soon as possible to protect our people. There are some promises that we will receive them in a few days. I can say we are expecting to receive military aid in a short period of time,” al-Muqdad told the Daily News, without elaborating from whom and through which countries they would obtain them.

The decision came as rebels battled President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in and around the northern city of Aleppo, seeking to reverse gains made by loyalist forces who had gained the upper hand following their victory in Qusayr.

Khoja indicated that they expected to receive heavy arms including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. “Through which country or from which state we receive them is not important for us. The point is to receive them at once,” he said, adding that the decision legitimized the clandestine arms supply of some countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said the decision would only prolong the country’s bloody war.

“Two days ago a conference [of the Friends of Syria group] was held in Doha. They emerged with a clear decision to arm the opposition... This will only prolong the crisis,” al-Muallem told reporters in Damascus, according to Agence France-Presse.

The foreign minister also stressed that the government would not hand over power at Geneva talks on a peaceful solution to the country’s conflict. “We will head to Geneva not to hand over power to the other side... We will go to Geneva in order to set up a real partnership and a broad national unity government,” al-Muallem told a press conference in Damascus.

Russia, al-Assad’s staunch ally, also criticized the decision made in Doha. “One must notice that the aim to provide, in fact, unlimited military support for the Syrian opposition – announced in Doha and in practice already carried out – completely contradicts efforts for a swift political solution in Syria,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Khoja said they were not surprised by these comments. “It is obvious that Russia is an ally of the Syrian regime and we know that they’re supplying any kind of arms to al-Assad. So we’re not surprised about these reactions.”