Conflict & Justice

Friends of Syria group defends arming rebel forces


US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace on May 22, 2013 in the Jordanian capital Amman. Backers of the Syrian uprising are meeting in Amman to discuss a US-Russian proposal for peace talks, as the brutal two-year conflict escalates close to the border with Lebanon.


Khalil Mazraawi

A coalition of countries that back the Syrian uprising defended arming rebel forces during a meeting in Qatar on Saturday, saying it may be the only way to achieve peace.

The Friends of Syria meeting in Doha comes one day after rebels announced they had received weapons from Libya and other countries that could be a "game-changer" in the ongoing conflict.

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The issue was heavy on the minds of the diplomats meeting on Saturday.

"Providing arms may be the only means of achieving peace," Qatar's PM Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani told BBC News.

Members of the group include the US, Britain, France and Germany as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

It was set up in response to moves by China and Russia to block UN resolutions on Syria.

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Last week, the White House announced it would provide Syrian rebels with "direct military aid" after acknowledging the use of chemical weapons by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But the US has not specified what steps it will now take, and Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday stressed the Friends of Syria coalition was still seeking a peace conference between the two sides in Geneva.

He said arming rebel forces was more about giving them leverage than military action.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that CIA operatives and US special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels since late last year at bases in Jordan and Turkey.

White House officials refused to comment on the report.