US Moves toward Providing Direct Aid to Syria Rebels

27 Feb

US Moves toward Providing Direct Aid to Syria Rebels

Local Editor

The Washington Post revealed Wednesday that “the Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide rebels there with equipment such as body armor and armored vehicles, and possibly military training.”

According to US and European officials, “elements of the proposed policy, which officials cautioned have not yet been finalized, are being discussed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in meetings this week and next with allies in Europe and the Middle East as part of a coordinated effort.”

“Those talks – along with a nearly two-hour meeting in Berlin on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a Thursday conference with allies and leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Rome – are expected to weigh heavily on administration deliberations,” they stated.

Meanwhile, CNN published a similar story on its website, citing a source as saying that the United States was “looking to remove restrictions on ‘dual-use’ equipment” and, according to another source, that the administration was moving toward providing humanitarian aid directly to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

In this context, Kerry has repeatedly made indirect references to a policy shift during his travels.
On Monday in London, he said: “We are not coming to Rome simply to talk. We’re coming . . . to make decisions about next steps.”
“The pending shift to a more active role comes as the administration and its partners backing the opposition, including Britain, France and countries in Syria’s region, have concluded that there is little immediate chance for a negotiated political settlement.”

In parallel, western officials have also acknowledged that the opposition coalition is unlikely to quickly develop a governing infrastructure or attract significant support from fence-sitting Syrian minorities and Assad supporters.
Early this year, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries directly arming the opposition fighters increased weapons shipments to rebel factions after consultations with Washington.
A senior Arab official in the region said those armaments, including antitank weapons and recoilless rifles, have begun flowing into Syria. The New York Times reported Tuesday that at least some of those weapons were purchased in Croatia.
Britain and France have pushed to lift a European Union arms embargo on Syria.
More important, according to several European officials, the EU inserted a clause that allows member countries “to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians.”

Finalization of the new provision will be announced Thursday as Kerry and representatives of other governments meet with the opposition coalition in Rome, said officials close to the deliberations.
Although a number of countries opposed the change, it was favored by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, according to a European official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss rapidly evolving policies.

“Under the old EU setup, we couldn’t do anything,” a senior European official said. The new rule will allow “things that don’t of themselves kill people,” including night-vision equipment, armored vehicles and military training.
Another European official said, “We’re talking about things that can be helpful on the ground – bulletproof jackets, binoculars and communications.”
The European officials said they have been in close contact with the Obama administration about its intentions and have been told that discussions are ongoing.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by

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