US to provide arms to Syria opposition

US to provide arms to Syria opposition

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
US to provide arms to Syria opposition

Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) run to avoid a sniper in Deir al-Zor. REUTERS photo

U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize lethal aid to Syrian rebels marks a “turning point” in the two-year civil war, according to the Syrian armed opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), who will meet with Western officials on June 15 on a possible arms transfer.

The political and media coordinator of the FSA, Louay al-Mokdad, praised June 14 the move, requesting it happen faster. “It’s a late step from the international community, but it’s a good step; it should move fast,” al-Mokdad told the Hürriyet Daily News. The decision came as rebels are scheduled to hold a meeting in Turkey this weekend to ask Western countries for weapons, a no-fly zone, and to push Russia to remove Iranian and Hezbollah fighters inside Syria. Salim Idris, commander of the FSA, will meet with the officials.

'A real movement against al-Assad'

U.S. officials confirmed the authorization of direct military support to rebels after the White House announced it had conclusive evidence that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces.

The transition of the weapons to the FSA will start “in a short period of time,” al-Mokdad said, citing their talks with foreign officials. “There is a meeting with Salim Idris tomorrow, and I guess it will be the start of the real movement against Bashar al-Assad from the international community,” he said. U.S. officials will be in this meeting too, al-Mokdad confirmed.

He said al-Assad was preparing for a huge operation that could claim many civilian lives in Syria and asked for a no-fly zone over the country. “Bashar al-Assad is bringing all the gangs, the Hezbollah militia and the fighters from Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan. He is preparing a huge operation, not only in the north but even in Homs and Damascus,” he said.

“We need a no-fly zone above Syria because many civilians are now in the liberated areas. They should make a no-fly zone. We are asking officially for a no-fly zone above Syria,” said al-Mokdad, addressing “the U.S., European countries and all the states of Syrian people and all our neighbors.”