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 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.

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Comment Sorting
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.


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.

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