The Two-Way
7:39 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Kerry Says He's Confident Arms Are Reaching Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 9:16 am

Secretary of State John Kerry says he believes that arms are reaching the rebels in Syria and that the U.S. supports international efforts to put weapons in the hands of the opposition to step up pressure on President Bashar Assad.

At a news conference in Doha with Qatar's Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, Kerry said Tuesday that "there are greater guarantees that weapons are being transferred to moderates and directly to the Syrian opposition."

He added that, "you can't guarantee that one weapon or another may not fall, in that kind of a situation, into hands that you don't want it in."

In Qatar, Kerry was wrapping up a nine-country swing through Europe and the Middle East, his first international tour since becoming secretary of state.

"We had a discussion about the types of weapons that are being transferred and by whom," Kerry said. "We did discuss the question of the ability to try to guarantee that it's going to the right people and to the moderate Syrian opposition coalition."

Although the U.S. has itself not sent weapons to Syria's opposition, it has increasingly encouraged other countries to do so. Last week Kerry announced that Washington would provide $60 million in nonlethal assistance, including medical and food aid.

Speaking to NPR's Michele Kelemen this week, Kerry said that what President Obama "really wants is a peaceful resolution to this, and he feels strongly that the immediate answer is not to empower more killing. It is rather to try to say to President Assad, there is a solution. Now, if Assad doesn't want that, then he's asking obviously for another ratcheting up of other countries and other efforts."

Kerry said he thinks that "President Assad has calculated, until recently, that he can shoot his way out of" the civil war that has already cost an estimated 70,000 lives.

"We need to take steps in order to change his calculation," he told NPR.

Kerry has said he doesn't anticipate any shift in U.S. policy on direct arms shipments.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET: Arab League May Give Syria's Seat To Opposition

In a sign of the Assad regime's increasing isolation, Reuters reports that Arab League ministers debated Wednesday whether to award Syria's vacant seat in the regional bloc to the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

Reuters quotes ministers meeting in Cairo as saying they are divided on whether to let the opponents of Assad take over Syria's seat, previously held by the Damascus government.

"The discussions on giving the Syrian seat to the opposition are taking place now and there are countries for it and others against it," one diplomat told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting a new United Nations report Wednesday, says the number of Syrians who have fled the country since the uprising began two years ago has officially exceeded 1 million.

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