ISTANBUL — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington will double its aid to the Syrian opposition, providing $123 million in new funding. He made the announcement after a meeting of nations that back the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's two-year-old civil war.
In a joint statement by the 11 countries attending the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, extreme concern was expressed over the Syria conflict and condemnation for the brutal campaign of the Syrian regime. But U.S. Secretary State John Kerry, at a press conference Saturday, said they were all still committed to a political solution.
"I was pleased to today continue our discussion with our allies. They share the view we should have a peaceful transition," Kerry said. "That's the first priority of everybody."
The attending countries welcomed a statement released by the Syrian opposition in which it pledged not to seek retribution in a post-Assad Syria and that a future Syria would be pluralistic and democratic. They also expressed opposition to extremism. There is growing concern among Western countries over the presence of al-Qaida-affiliated groups within Syrian rebels forces.
The meeting fell short of Syrian opposition calls for military intervention and the lifting of the arms embargo against it. Several Western countries, including the United States, oppose such a move, with fears that the arms could end up in the hands of radical groups. Secretary Kerry reiterated the U.S. commitment to non-lethal aid but left open the door to a change in policy if political efforts to end the conflict fail.
"But if we can’t we are all committed to continue to support the Syrian opposition, and there would have to be further announcements about the kind of support that would be in the days ahead," he said.
Steps were taken by the attending countries to bolster the legitimacy of the Syrian opposition. A commitment was made that all humanitarian aid will in the future be directed through the Syrian Free Army.