News / Middle East

    Kerry Meeting With Syrian Opposition Leaders

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left,  meets with leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition at the Hotel Excelsior in Rome, February 28, 2013.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, meets with leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition at the Hotel Excelsior in Rome, February 28, 2013.
    Brian Padden
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Syrian opposition leaders Thursday in Rome, where he could announce new aid for Syrian rebels.

    The talks come amid a wider Friends of Syria meeting, bringing together mostly European and Middle Eastern nations that back those opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Kerry said Wednesday the U.S. is seeking ways to speed up the political transition the Syrian people are seeking.

    During his current nine-nation tour of European and Arab capitals, Secretary of State John Kerry has made coordinating efforts to support the Syrian opposition in its struggle against President Bashar al-Assad a top priority.  Wednesday, after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Kerry emphasized the need to push for an end to the two-year-old conflict that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives.

    “We are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people seek and deserve," said Kerry.

    So far the United States has provided only communications equipment to rebels in Syria.  Administration officials have opposed sending military aid, fearing weapons could end up in the hands of radical fighters.

    But recent news reports say the U.S. is ready to change that policy and begin directly supplying Syria’s opposition coalition with non-lethal equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles, possibly training and humanitarian aid.

    U.S. and European officials say the White House is still weighing the new policy.

    In Washington, proponents of American intervention in the Syrian conflict, like Senator John McCain, say non-lethal aid is a step in the right direction but more is needed to help the rebels.

    “It is a small measure, and I do not think at this stage of the game that it will positively affect the situation on the ground," said McCain. "We need a safe zone. We need to supply them with lethal weapons, and we need to support them. And we are not doing that.”
          
    • 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.

    While there is concern that increasing support for the rebels could escalate the conflict and wider tensions in the region, analyst John Pike with Global Security.org says American leadership to help moderate rebel forces and maintain regional stability is long overdue.   

    “I’m certainly concerned about what the Russians are going to think," said Pike. "I am certainly concerned about some of the aid falling into the wrong hands. I’m concerned about what might happen with Syria and chemical weapons, but I think that the problem that would arise if we just stand by and watch it on TV, the way we’ve been doing for the last two years, are even worse.”

    European Union foreign ministers agreed last week to extend an arms embargo against Syria, but did open the door to providing more non-lethal support to protect civilians.

    Leaders from the opposition Syrian National Coalition had planned to boycott the Rome talks to protest what they saw as a lack of response from the international community, but now say they will attend the meeting set for Thursday.

    • Demonstrators chant slogans and wave Syrian opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Bustan al-Qasr district, Aleppo, Syria, March 1, 2013.
    • A man sells gas stoves in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 28, 2013. 
    • A child looks out of a window in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 28, 2013.
    • Men ride a scooter past buildings damaged by shelling from Syrian forces, Maarat al-Nuaman, Idlib province, Syria, Feb. 26, 2013.
    • A citizen journalism image provided by the Aleppo Media Center, AMC, shows people searching the rubble after houses were hit by a missile fired by Syrian government forces in Ard Al-Hamra, Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 26, 2013.
    • A boy walks past members of an Islamist group as they hold flags during a protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Deir el-Zor, Syria, Feb. 25, 2013.
    • Destruction and debris are seen in Al-Suwayqa, Aleppo after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad captured the area from the Free Syrian Army, Feb. 25, 2013.
    • Ammunition that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say belonged to the Free Syrian Army is seen in Al-Suwayqa, Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 25, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons and deploy after they seized control of the government's 80th Brigade's base near Aleppo International Airport, Feb. 23, 2013. 
    • A view shows military vehicles which belonged to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad forces at 80th Brigade's base after it was seized, Feb. 23, 2013.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
    February 28, 2013 5:30 AM
    if russia and china cant tell the world the wrong that syrian protesters under assads fire and bad governance did to them,then they are just out to make assad an addict of the terrible things he is doing in the name of governance..its clear that the west has not been concerned with syria with a cold war attitude in its mind.


    lulasa...president

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    February 27, 2013 10:09 PM
    It is sad and unfortunate, that the departure of the entrenched dictatorship can't be negotiated. The legitimate representatives of the Syrian majority, need to be helped to fight off the dictatorship. Not only are they fighting the dictatorship, but they are also fighting forces from Iran and Hezbollah, as reported in the media; both of these additional forces are extremely well equipped, extremely well trained, and very experienced gained in many other conflicts, thus putting the legitimate representatives of the majority of Syria at extreme disadvantage, trying to defend the civilians in Syria.

    The dictatorship's alliance is using massive weapons, causing daily huge massacres, by the use of these massive weapons, the defenders need defensive weapons against these large weapons being used indiscriminately by the dictatorship. 70,000 dead, mainly Sunni Muslim civilians, it is an enormous number of casualties in such a short period; by far exceeding all the civilian casualties, in all the ME conflicts in the last 50 years. Very sad situation, it is a terrible loss of civilians.

    by: Juli Efendi from: Indonesia
    February 27, 2013 9:18 PM
    Spirit for Syrian people to finish the conflict with Opposition.I wish this conflict must finish with negotiation and PBB can make a good conclusion to help Syrian people.We hope the syrian people can save to live and doing normal activity not see the war every day.

    by: ali baba from: new york
    February 27, 2013 7:20 PM
    aiding Syrian rebels will not stop the war but will make the situation get worst . how many times united state make this mistake. the country is divided into two groups. give support to one group is like put a gas on the fire, it make it worst. if the rebel are able to overthrown Bashar el Assad ,Syria will cover with blood of Shia

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    February 27, 2013 6:20 PM
    If the Secretary of State John Kerry and the US knows whom to supply the body armor, armored vehicles, night vision gogles and other equipments to the Syrian rebels, they should know whom to supply anti-aircraft missiles, badly needed by the Syrian opposition. Is there any kind of armored vehicles without arms? Are these armored vehicle is any kind of challenge to the Syrian tanks? While the US change of heart is appreciated after more than 75,000 Syrians died in the conflict, why the US is still waiting to supply anti-aircraft guns and showlder held anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels to whom the armored vehicles will be supplied. Every day delayed for military help to the rebels is costing hundreds of Syrian lives each day. It is a humanitarian necessity to supply arms to the Syrian rebels. It is cheaper to supply arms to the Syrian opposition than taking care of hundreds of thousands of refugees outside Syria, much more internally displaced persons in Syria and the Syrians living in the midst of war.
    In Response

    by: ali baba from: new york
    February 27, 2013 7:32 PM
    again ,if you do not know the nature of Arabs, do not put an opinion based on ignorance the Sunni rebel are very vicious and once they have the power ,they are going to slaughter every Shia like a sheep .and once the war is over ,the anti craft missile and other military equipment will be send to other terrorist group like Taliban.. can not see a thousand of American solider killed in Afghanistan by equipment made in usa

    by: Anonymous
    February 27, 2013 7:57 AM
    There is little real difference between the so called "moderate" Islamists and al Quaida. Both have the same goals, which is, the building of an Islamic state/khalifate. I don't believe the hype, of "moderate" islamists, peddled by the MSM.
    In Response

    by: Richard Cheeseman from: Aotearoa
    February 27, 2013 5:54 PM
    Supplying military equipment like armoured vehicles to Syrian rebels would be a blatant violation of the UN Charter and the international customary law outlawing war of aggression, i.e. the crime for which the Nazi leaders were sentenced to be hanged.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora