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US, UK halt aid to Syrian rebels amid Islamist offensive

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-12

The US and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria on Wednesday, a day after the largest Islamist alliance in Syria seized a border crossing and key supply bases from the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army.

The US and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to rebels in northern Syria on Wednesday, a day after the largest Islamist alliance in Syria seized a border crossing and key supply bases from the more mainstream opposition Free Syrian Army.

The decision came after the Islamic Front – the largest Islamist rebel force in Syria – seized the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and key supply bases from the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The Islamic Front also seized several depots belonging to the FSA near the Turkish border on Saturday.

"We have seen reports that Islamic Front forces have seized the Atmeh headquarters and warehouses belonging to the [FSA's] supreme military council and we are obviously concerned," said a spokesman for the US embassy in Ankara.

"Because of the current situation, the United States has suspended deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria," spokesman T.J. Grubisha said. Aid the United States has provided to Syria’s rebels included armoured vehicles, night-vision goggles and advanced communications equipment.

Britain said that it too had suspended shipments of non-lethal aid, with a spokesman for its Turkish embassy saying the decision was taken because the current situation “remains unclear" and did not mean it was reducing its support for the opposition.

France said it was continuing to provide "non-lethal military aid" to the main opposition National Coalition in coordination with its partners in the European Union.

Grubisha said the US decision to suspend aid would not affect humanitarian assistance, which is coordinated by international and non-governmental organisations including the United Nations.

Gulf states condemn Assad ‘genocide’

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Kuwait City called on foreign militias to withdraw from Syria in a strongly worded statement at the conclusion of its two-day annual summit and accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of “genocide”.

The six-nation bloc said it "strongly condemned the continued genocide that Assad's regime is committing against the Syrian people using heavy and chemical weapons".

The Gulf states’ call for "the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria" was a clear reference to Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement which are supporting Assad's troops against the Sunni-led rebels.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-12-12

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