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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.