Friends of Syria agree to give urgent rebel aid
Western and Arab countries meet in Qatar over military support for anti-Assad groups
British foreign secretary William Hague and Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash attend the London 11 countries Friends of Syria meeting in Doha today. Photograph: Mohammed Dabbous/Reuters
Western and Arab countries opposed to President Bashar al-Assad agreed at talks in Qatar today to give urgent military support to Syrian rebels fighting for his overthrow, and to channel it through a Western-backed rebel military command.
Ministers from the 11 main countries which form the Friends of Syria group agreed “to provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground, each country in its own way in order to enable them to counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies”.
They also condemned “the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq”, demanding that they withdraw immediately.
Guerrillas from Lebanon’s Shia pro-Iranian Hezbollah organisation spearheaded the recapture of the strategic border town of Qusair from mainly Sunni Muslim rebels two weeks ago.
Hezbollah and Shia Iraqi gunmen have also been fighting around the Shia shrine of Sayyid Zainab south of Damascus, while Iranian military commanders are believed to be advising Dr Assad’s officers on their counter-offensives against the rebels.
The ministers said the growing sectarian nature of the conflict and the foreign interventions “threaten the unity of Syria (and) broaden the conflict” across the region. They also expressed strong concern at the increasing presence of “terrorist elements” and growing radicalisation in Syria.