DOHA – World powers supporting Syria’s rebels said Saturday they will provide them with urgent military aid, some of it secretly, so they can counter “brutal attacks” by the regime and protect the Syrian people.
Yet even as they prepared to step up their own involvement in a war that has killed nearly 100,000 people, they demanded that Iran and Lebanese movement Hezbollah stop supporting President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Speaking in Doha, top Qatari diplomat, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, said a ministerial meeting of the “Friends of Syria” had taken “secret decisions about practical measures to change the situation on the ground in Syria.”
They agreed to provide rebels “urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment . . . each country in its own way in order to enable them to counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies and protect the Syrian people,” a final communique said.
Ministers from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States attended the talks.
Washington and Doha had called for increasing aid to end what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called an “imbalance” in Assad’s favor.
Kerry said the U.S. remained committed to a peace plan that includes a conference in Geneva and a transitional government picked both by Assad and the opposition. But he said the rebels need more support “for the purpose of being able to get to Geneva and to be able to address the imbalance on the ground.”
On Thursday, the Free Syrian Army said it was already receiving unspecified new types of arms that could change the course of the battle, while also saying it needed antiaircraft and antitank weapons.
The ministers agreed that all military aid provided would be channelled through the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council.
France admitted Saturday that treatment kits against the effects of the deadly sarin nerve gas had already been shipped to the opposition.
In other news, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the ministers demanded that predominantly Shiite Iran and Hezbollah stop meddling in the war by supporting Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. “We are fully against the internationalization of the conflict,” he said.