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‘Friends of Syria’ agree to arming rebels at Doha talks

AFP

Eleven member countries of the Friends of Syria group agreed on Saturday to provide "all the necessary materiel and equipment" to opposition rebels in Syria to counter the "brutal attacks" launched by the Damascus regime and its allies.

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Eleven member countries of the Friends of Syria group agreed on Saturday to provide "all the necessary materiel and equipment" to opposition rebel fighters in Syria.

In the group's final communique, delegates agreed to "provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground, 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".

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said the delegates had taken "secret decisions about practical measures to change the situation on the ground in Syria".

The group also demanded the immediate withdrawal of fighters from the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and from Iran and Iraq, all of whom are fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Assad of seeking an "internationalisation" of the conflict by marshalling the support of foreign fighters.

"We have demanded that Iran and Hezbollah end their intervention in the conflict," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday.

"Hezbollah has played a terribly negative role, mainly in the attack on Qusair," Fabius added, referring to the central Syrian city that saw weeks of fighting before being recaptured from rebels earlier this month with the help of Hezbollah fighters.

Delegates from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and hosts Qatar took part in the two-day talks.

'Imbalance on the ground'

Kerry earlier told the conference that supporters of Syria's opposition rebels would be stepping up military and other aid in a bid to end an "imbalance on the ground" in Assad's favour.

Kerry said, however, that the United States remained committed to a peace plan that includes a conference in Geneva and a transitional government picked both by Assad and the opposition.

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", Kerry said.

"Reliable civilian governance and a stronger and more effective armed opposition will better enable the opposition to be able to provide the counterweight to the initiative of Assad," he said.

Thani echoed Kerry’s statements in saying a peaceful end "cannot be reached unless a balance on the ground is achieved, in order to force the regime to sit down to talks”.

"Getting arms and using them could be the only way to achieve peace," Thani added.

Fabius said that France had already delivered anti-sarin gas treatments to the rebels “that could provide protection for a thousand people”.

US President Barack Obama announced plans in mid-June to step up military assistance to the rebels after concluding that Assad crossed his stated "red line" by using chemical weapons.

But the United States has provided few details of what assistance it will provide, with Obama voicing concern about US involvement in an increasingly sectarian conflict that threatens to engulf the region.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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