News / Middle East

US to Provide $60 Million for Syrian Opposition

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib, after a news conference at Villa Madama in Rome, February 28, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib, after a news conference at Villa Madama in Rome, February 28, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday announced $60 million in additional aid to the Syrian opposition and also for the first time an unspecified amount of non-lethal aid to some of its military forces.
 
The announcement came in Rome where Kerry attended a meeting with the Syrian opposition leaders and officials from dozens of countries supporting them.
 
Kerry said the $60 million will enable the opposition to provide services in areas it controls and help build its local support. Militant groups have filled that role in some areas, raising concerns in the West.
 
The military aid — combat rations and medical supplies — will be the first provided by the United States directly to the opposition military council.

Kerry said the international community is committed to working with the Syrian opposition "with peace as a first resort."

"They are the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.  And that stands in very stark contrast to the rule of Bashar al-Assad, who long ago lost his legitimacy and who is out of time and who must be out of power," said Kerry.
 
The Syrian opposition wants weapons, and was hoping for at least equipment like body armor and armored vehicles. The United States is concerned about any supplies being passed to the militants, who have many of the most effective fighting units.
 
Concern over militants
 
At a news conference Thursday, after what is called the Friends of Syria meeting, Kerry referred to the concern about militants, and the balance the international community is trying to strike between pressing for an end to the Assad regime and not strengthening the extremists.
 
“We can't risk letting this country in the heart of the Middle East be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists," he said. "In supporting the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, we reject both of those choices.”
 
Kerry has said the United States wants to "change the calculation" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is making as he clings to power and orders increasingly brutal attacks on civilian areas.
 
“What we're doing today is part of a whole, and I am very confident that that whole is going to have the ability for President Assad to realize he better start measuring more effectively what his future is, what his choices are and what kinds of weapons he uses," he said.
 
"So I'm very confident in what the president [Obama] has put forward today as the beginning of a process that will, in fact, change his [Assad's] calculation,” Kerry said.
 
Opposition demands
 
The president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, spoke forcefully at the news conference, calling on President Assad to stop bombing civilian areas. Khatib also expressed impatience with his foreign supporters, who he believes are overly concerned about their aid falling into the hands of terrorists.
 
"No terrorists in the world have such a savage nature as that of the Syrian regime,” he said.
 
The meeting's communique said the opposition coalition would soon appoint someone to lead an interim government that would operate inside Syria.

That was expected to come at a meeting scheduled for Istanbul on Saturday. But the activists announced Thursday that the meeting was called off.

Khalid Saleh, director of the media office for the Syrian National Coalition, told VOA that some coalition members were unable to attend because they were not consulted about the date and because some members had scheduling conflicts.

Saleh said the activists plan to reschedule the election of an interim prime minister within a few days.

 "No new date has been set. I cannot reveal the reasons at this time and I do not exclude its cancellation," opposition member Samir Nashar told the French news agency.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Qatar crown prince, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, start their meeting at the Prince's Sea Palace residence in Doha, Qatar, March 5, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is met by Qatari Chief of Protocol Abdullah Fakhroo and Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Mohamed al-Rumaihi at Doha International Airport, March 5, 2013.
  • The red carpet is rolled up after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boarded his plane to leave Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on his way to the final destination of Qatar, March 5, 2013.
  • Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan invites U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pose with him for a photograph before their dinner meeting at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 4, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 3, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, March 3, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends an Antikabir Wreath Laying ceremony at the Tomb of Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey, March 2, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a news conference with Syrian National Coalition Chairman Mouaz al-Khatib and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi at Villa Madama in Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • A peace activist protests at the end of statements given by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib at Villa Madama in Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gestures while standing with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak to the media at the Chancellery in Berlin, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with the children of U.S. embassy staff in Berlin, Feb. 26, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London, Feb. 25, 2013.
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits with the traveling media aboard a plane en route to London on his inaugural trip as secretary, Feb. 24, 2013.

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by: Salman Abu Hatem from: Syria
March 01, 2013 12:46 AM
if we are honest, we ought to recognize the danger of the major powers of interest in the conflict - and they are - Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (Qatar)... the US just isn't one of them... Israel will not allow the US to be humiliated again in the Middle East (1983) - we all know that... and the US and Israel are not in contention here... sorry America... if it wounds your pride... the major powers of influence in the Syria conflict are attached to different factions in a fragmented sectarian divide within Syria... and Russia has the most to lose... yes, Russia, not Iran...

Russia has Millions and Millions of Sunni Muslims inside Russia... and they, Russia, are playing with fire when they support Assad Alawite regime... Iran can recover from a loss of Hizbullah by destabilizing Jordan and continue destabilizing Bahrain and Qatar and maybe Saudi Arabia... Saudi Arabia, with all the money they have, are perching on a very precarious rotten branch of a decaying tree... and there is a growing wave of discontent inside Saudi Arabia which Iran will exploit...


by: Mustafa from: PAKISTAN
March 01, 2013 12:07 AM
This is very sad part that USA wants to shut every voice who is against their will. What is going on in Middle East in the name of KINGDOM they never bother because they are their pets. There is no freedom,human rights and religious liberty in ME. Even then USA is supporting them blindly because they have no courage to speak single word against USA and ISRAEL. Israel is killing on daily basis so many peoples but there is no tear in WEST.

There is no basic facilities in Palestine areas and each and every family has wounds but there is no sympathy from West side. Now what is going on in Libya,Tunis,Bahrain and Saudi arabia they never care about masses they are taking care of their own interest. What will happen when Mr.Maud will take over as PM, every where you will find human blood and who will be responsible in front of GOD for this human blood in all parts of SYRIA in the name of CHANGE.


by: adipocere from: Alabama
March 01, 2013 12:05 AM
Adding this to my "reasons I am ashamed to be an American" list which is has become so long I'm just marking tallies in margins. I don't support terrorism, "legitimate" or otherwise, no matter how many "legitimate" American hands it shakes.


by: musawi melake
February 28, 2013 5:08 PM
This is nothing but funding terrorism!, Uncle Sam is trying to send a message to the world that they, being the sole super power, can do anything but not others. This means Iran or any other state can provide arms and other support to the Resistance fighters, trying to throw out an invasion and a proxy similar to the agents installed by Adolf Hitler's Germany, in Afghanistan. The Russians and the Chinese should make bold moves to create Soviet style approach. Mr. Putins actions are paramount here. When Mr. Kerry says "Their goals are our goals", he actually means the opposite!


by: Malek Towghi, Ph.D. from: USA
February 28, 2013 3:45 PM
So, the USA takes the plunge into the Syrian quagmire! What a blunder!!


by: ali baba from: new york
February 28, 2013 3:12 PM
we are to replace a dictator with another dictator. We do it Egypt and the sequence for supporting moersi has inflicted pain in every Egyptian live in the country. we are going to do the same in Syria. once the rebel got in power the real color of the rebel will be clearly seen. then Kerry and his aids will understand that we committed another plunder, it is business as usual


by: Alzaripov from: RF
February 28, 2013 2:21 PM
The aid of the USA to the syrian opposition would be more effective if all countries finally understood that the regime of Assad is unconstitutiional and untinational including RF.

But each country supports that regime wich is similar to its own: "Birds of a fearther flock together".


by: Anonymous
February 28, 2013 1:31 PM
Send them more communications equipment, and cameras, these are VERY IMPORTANT. The people of Syria need to record these crimes , so they can be used to prosecute the Assad regime. Bullet proof vests and logistical support would be nice to give the Syrians as well.

In Response

by: Anonymous
March 01, 2013 4:17 AM
Non Lethal support should also include logistics, where tanks and helicopters are located. I 100% support that.

In Response

by: adipocere from: Alabama
March 01, 2013 12:17 AM
The people of Syria do record these crimes and it is the rebels committing them. The most recent one of these was so blatant, it (incredibly) got bad western press. It's called damage control; Queue the diplomatic overtures, blame shadow factions, call in the spin doctors. Soon it's back to the business of war as usual.


by: Anonymous
February 28, 2013 1:28 PM
This is great news, the people have been subject to terrorism by Bashar al Assad. The people of Syria need to defend themselves from Bashar al Assad and his henchmen. He needs to be extinguished and brought before the International Criminal Court for his heinous crimes against humanity. The ICC will eventually get their man! Not only has he killed thousands of innocent civilians, he has destroyed most cities and towns across Syria.


by: Anonymous
February 28, 2013 10:35 AM
Please explain why in the HELL we are pledging 60 millon dollars of aid to this damn country when our own country is facing huge budget cuts because of our leaders in ability to spend our money wisely, this is absolute madness. Get ready people, we are headed to hell in a handbasket.

In Response

by: Anonymous from: St. Petersburg FL
February 28, 2013 3:46 PM
Agreed! Why are we going to send money we don't have to a country and people that aren't ours! Madness!!!

In Response

by: Anonymous
February 28, 2013 1:29 PM
60 Mil is a lot cheaper than sending in troops to wipe Bashar off the map.

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