The Syrian opposition leader pleaded “for expedited assistance to put an end to the progress and aggression of” Islamic State group militants, which have seized a large area of Syria.
UNITED NATIONS, United States: The Syrian opposition leader appealed to the international community for more weapons and air support to defeat both militants and the Assad regime, as nations unveiled more non-lethal aid. “We welcome that the world has joined this battle, we welcome the partnership of the world in our battle against terrorism,” Syrian National Coalition leader Hadi al-Bahra told a special ministerial meeting.
But he pleaded “for expedited assistance to put an end to the progress and aggression of” Islamic State group militants, which have seized a large area of Syria and sent some 200,000 Kurds fleeing from their villages in recent days. “We call on the international community, we call on our brothers and sisters to assist the operations of the free army, by supporting air support,” Bahra told a meeting of the Friends of Syria.
American and British leaders pledged about US$115 million in new funding to help the Syrian moderate opposition as it fights both the militants and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
US officials said the Department of Defence was moving to equip and train the moderate Syrian opposition which has been vetted, but warned it could take several months. “We have cooperation from Saudi Arabia and others to do the training. We haven’t gotten into the specifics of equipment,” a senior State Department official told reporters. “Training and equipping will take place as soon as possible, and it will be as quick as it can be. But it does take a certain amount of time. First you have to get facilities and the move forward with the actual training program.”
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said his country would be increasing aid to £ 46 million (US$75 million). And US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was boosting its non-lethal support by a further US$40 million. Some US$15 million was for communications, vehicles and meals for troops, with US$26 million for building the civilian opposition.
“Friends of Syria today expressed their support once again for the vision of a Syria free of tyranny and terrorism, enjoying democracy, pluralism under the rule of law,” Hammond told reporters. “Today we made our commitment to work with the moderate opposition led by the Syrian National Coalition to turn that vision into a reality.”
The Friends of Syria group reaffirmed the need for a political settlement in Syria after more than three years of civil war. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, whose country has joined the US-led air strikes against IS militants in Syria, said the campaign against the extremists “should start by putting an end to the causes of this terrorism.”
“The regime in Syria is the cause of the appearance of ISIL,” he said, adding it had created a security vacuum which had led to the group’s rise. “Our support for the moderate opposition should not be only military sphere, but should also include practical steps to weaken the Syrian regime by an economic blockade,” the prince said, calling on those responsible for crimes to be brought before international courts. “The only thing that we expect is for this regime to go.”
Bahra suggested that Assad was hoping to seal his country’s fate through military victory. Fighting has raged in Syria has killed more than 180,000 people and caused millions to flee their homes. The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Tuesday said he had “no grand projects at the moment” to revive the peace process.