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The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Syrian National Coalition President Moaz Al Khatib and other officials posing for a group photo during meetings in Rome, yesterday.
DOHA/ROME: The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, took part in the Friends of Syria meeting in Rome yesterday, saying the event marked a major turning point for developments in Syria. Western powers pledged aid for Syrian rebels at the meeting but stopped short of offering them weapons.
The United States said it would for the first time give non-lethal aid to the rebels and would more than double its support to Syria’s civilian opposition, casting it as a way to bolster the rebels’ popular support
The Prime Minister had earlier expressed optimism about the outcome of the meeting, saying things were “on the right track”.
The US help will include medical supplies, food for rebel fighters and $60m to help the civilian opposition provide basic services like security, education and sanitation.
Washington has given $385m in humanitarian aid for Syria but US President Barack Obama has so far refused to give arms, arguing it is difficult to prevent them from falling into the hands of militants who could use them on Western targets.
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the new steps after a meeting of 11 mostly European and Arab nations within the “Friends of Syria” group.
Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib, President of Syrian National Coalition, who stood beside Kerry as he made the announcement, expressed disappointment, suggesting the West was overly focused on the presence of Islamists among rebels.
“A lot people, particularly the media, pay more attention to the length of fighters’ beards than to the shedding of children’s blood and regime bombardments.
“Indications are that there has been an international decision not to arm the Syria resistance with high-calibre weapons. If that is what you want, then stop providing the regime with these types of weapons, which continue to arrive under the pretext of honouring existing contracts.”
A Western diplomat who took part said the opposition had seen the announcement of new US money as a step forward.
A final communique said participants would “coordinate their efforts closely so as to best empower the Syrian people and support the Supreme Military Command of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army in its efforts to help them exercise self-defence”.
The European Union, acting on a decision this month to send direct aid to the rebels, said it had amended sanctions on Syria to permit the supply of armoured vehicles, non-lethal military equipment and technical aid, provided they were intended to protect civilians. AGENCIES