US to give $60 mln to Syrian civilian opposition for security purposes
(From L, front row) France's ambassador to Syria Eric Chevallier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani pose during the family photo of a meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People (FOSP) Ministerial" group on February 28, 2013 in Rome. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JACQUELYN MARTINThe United States plans for the first time to provide non-lethal aid, including food rations and medical supplies, to opposition fighters battling the Syrian government and it will more than double aid to the civilian opposition, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, Reuters has reported.
Speaking after talks with the Syrian opposition and mainly European and Arab countries supporting them, Kerry said that the United States would give the civilian opposition an additional $60 million to help them provide security.
A State Department official said the $60 million in aid would be used "particularly to enable the (opposition) to help local councils and communities in liberated areas in Syria" to provide basic goods and services and "fulfil administrative functions including security, sanitation and education services."
The official said the new money was in addition to $50 million in non-lethal support already provided by the US to help Syrian opposition activists, including with communications equipment.
Asked about congressional approval of the funding, Kerry told journalists he was "very confident for rapid delivery". He said the goal was to give a boost to the opposition and show Assad that he could not use violence to resolve the conflict.
Friends of Syria pledge 'material support' to Syria opposition
US, European and Arab officials gathered for the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Rome promised on Thursday to provide more concrete assistance to the opposition battling President Bashar al-Assad's regime, AFP has reported.
"The ministers pledged more political and material support to the coalition... and to get more concrete assistance inside Syria," host country Italy said in a statement after the talks between 11 nations and the Syrian opposition.
Moscow and Paris share ‘same objective’
French President François Hollande and his Russian host Vladimir Putin said yesterday they shared the same objectives on Syria, but there were few signs their talks led to any breakthrough on concrete steps to resolve the conflict.
Hollande said both Russia and France had the same goal to bring peace while avoiding the collapse of Syria but differed in particular on the role of President Bashar al-Assad in a power transfer.
“We have the same objective to avoid disintegration of this country and to avoid allowing terrorists to profit from this chaos. We want political dialogue,” Hollande said after his first trip to Russia as president.
But he added: “There is the question of the manner of how to get there through political dialogue.” Putin said the French leader brought with him to Moscow new proposals on how to solve the two-year conflict in the Middle Eastern country but quipped that reconciling their countries’ positions would be hard without copious amounts of alcohol.
“We had a very active debate and even argued when it came to some issues,” Putin said. “It seemed to me a good bottle of wine, even vodka would be needed to sort this out,” Putin told a news conference to laughter from officials. In an effort to play along with his host, Hollande quipped that he would prefer a bottle of port.
France has been one of the strongest international backers of urgent action to bring about a power transfer in Syria that excludes al-Assad and can end a conflict that according to the United Nations has claimed 70,000 lives.
Russia has denied it has a policy of propping up al-Assad, a long-term ally, but has not backed calls for him to stand down, saying this must be the Syrians’ decision.
Refugees threaten lebanon
BEIRUT - Reuters
Lebanon’s interior minister said yesterday that refugees who have fled from the war in neighboring Syria have become a threat to Lebanon’s security because of the suspicion that many are in fact rebel fighters.
Residents in northern Lebanon say that rebels pose as refugees to cross the border, and are arming members of the refugee community in Lebanon to fight in Syria. The minister, Marwan Charbel, has said Syrian rebels have set up training camps in Lebanon. In addition, members of the rebel Free Syrian Army have used Lebanon’s mountainous terrain to regroup before staging attacks on the Syrian army across the poorly demarcated border. “What is concerning me is the security situation,” Charbel said. “Who is exploiting (the Syrian refugees)? Who is arming them? We are not controlling them.”