U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet this weekend with European and Mideast allies to discuss what weapons to provide Syrian rebels, who face an imminent offensive by regime troops in Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs.
The meeting, to be held June 22 in Doha, is expected to include officials from France, the U.K, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan, according to French officials, who spoke about the meeting with reporters on the condition that they not be identified.
The head of the rebels’ Supreme Military Command, Major General Salim Idris, has given the friendly governments a weapons wish list, ranging from non-military supplies to anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, according to the officials. France is prepared to sign up for some of those, although the officials wouldn’t say which ones. France won’t deliver weapons without participation by the U.K and the U.S., the officials said.
At the meeting in Qatar, the allies will seek a clearer explanation of President Barack Obama’s policy following the announcement that the U.S. will provide some military aid to the rebels. While Obama authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to provide light arms and training, the U.S. opposes sending portable anti-aircraft weapons due to concern that they will fall into the hands of terrorists, according to U.S. officials, who asked not to be named discussing classified matters.
Obama, who had opposed sending weapons since the start of the popular uprising in March 2011, shifted policy after the rebels this month were defeated at al-Qusair as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were reinforced with fighters from Lebanon-based Hezbollah and arms from Iran.
At least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria since peaceful protests against Assad more than two years ago sparked a civil war, the United Nations said in an analysis of casualties.
The State Department announced today that Doha will be the first stop on a trip by Kerry from June 21 to July 2. Subsequent stops are in New Delhi; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Amman, Jordan; Jerusalem and Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
In New Delhi from June 23 to June 25, he will lead the interagency delegation to the fourth annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, open the second annual U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue, deliver a policy speech on bilateral and regional issues, and meet with young leaders and innovators at an event highlighting U.S.-India cooperation on clean energy, climate change, science and technology, and poverty alleviation.
After talks with Saudi and Kuwaiti officials, Kerry travels June 27 to June 29 to Amman and Jerusalem for meetings with Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials on advancing Middle East peace.
The final stop on Kerry’s trip is Bandar Seri Begawan, where he is scheduled to participate in several annual regional conferences from June 30 to July 2.
To contact the reporters on this story: Terry Atlas in Washington at email@example.com; Gregory Viscusi in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org
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