U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib (C) and Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi attend a news conference after an international meeting in Rome, capital of Italy, on Feb. 28, 2013. The United States has stepped up its support for the Syrian opposition with additional 60 million U.S. dollars in non-lethal assistance, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said here on Thursday after an international meeting on Syria. (Xinhua/Xu Nizhi)
DAMASCUS, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The international conference of the so-called Friends of Syria held in Rome on Thursday has failed to meet the exiled opposition's calls for providing "qualitative arms" to the rebels on ground, offering instead "non lethal" help.
The exiled opposition was hoping that the international community would support the armed rebels on ground with weapons that could tip the balance in the rebels' fight against the superior power of the Syrian army.
However, the superpowers have stopped short of meeting the bold demand and offered instead "non lethal" help, with Washington offering 60 million U.S. dollars as help for the opposition.
The West has been skeptical about rendering arms to the rebels out of fears that such weapons might fall in the hands of the extremists on ground, while representatives from dozens of nations took part in the meeting and vowed to provide "medical and health" aid.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and head of the oppositional Syrian National Coalition Moaz al-Khatib held a press conference after the group's meeting.
While stressing that President Bashar al-Assad "can't stay in office because he has lost legitimacy," Kerry reasserted that the Syrian crisis "can't be solved militarily." He said that his government had chosen the political option to support the opposition's transitional plan that includes a transitional government with full executives.
"For more than a year, the United States and our partners have called on Assad to heed the voice of the Syrian people and to halt his war machine," Kerry said. "Instead, what we have seen is his brutality increase."
"The United States' decision to take further steps now is the result of the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah," he said.
He also said that the U.S. decision to provide the aid was also to help the opposition govern newly "liberated areas" of Syria.
For his side, al-Khatib called on the world to impose humanitarian corridors in Syria under the UN seventh charter.
While calling for national talks, al-Khatib said the condition of such negotiations should clearly be set: "the departure of the Assad regime and the dismantling of security apparatus."
He noted that there were some signs that the international community would not give qualitative weapons to the armed rebels on ground, calling in return for halting the weapons shipment to the government forces "under the pretext that those shipments were parts of old contracts."
Meanwhile, he stressed that the Syrian people should be granted the right for self-defense, adding that most of the rebels fighting on ground were regular people that had been pushed to hold up arms to face the army forces.
"What the regime has done has more effect than chemical weapons, " he said, stressing that "We are against any takfiri or any other methodology that could lead to the destruction of Syria's social fabric."
The repeated calls by the opposition and the Western powers for Assad to step down have been met with condemnation from the Syrian government that has called recently for dialogue with all parties, including the rebels on ground, but on a Syrian soil and in accordance with the political vision of the president.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has recently announced that Syria was ready to open dialogue with the opposition, even the armed groups, a step which was seen by observers as aiming to placate the Syrians people, who are eager to reach a political solution to the country's nearly two-year crisis.
However, Salim Edris, the so-called chief of staff of the rebel Syrian Free Army, turned down al-Moallem's offer for dialogue, stipulating that Assad should step down ahead of any dialogue and called for the cessation for all kinds of killing and the withdrawal of the Syrian army from cities.
Observers believe that the international community had become more convinced of the need for a political solution in Syria out of fear that the sectarian-themed rebellion might spell largely over neighboring countries and rattle the security of the region as a whole.
ROME, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The United States has stepped up its support for the Syrian opposition with additional 60 million U.S. dollars in non-lethal assistance, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said here on Thursday after an international meeting on Syria.
The U.S. would provide such aids as food and medical supplies for the first time to rebels battling against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry announced in a joint press conference in Rome with Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi and Syrian opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib. Full story