Saturday, May 26, 2018
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U.S., Turkey to boost aid to Syrian rebels

‘Nonlethal’ equipment set for groups inside nation

SEOUL — Turkey and the United States plan to provide “nonlethal” assistance, such as communications equipment and medical supplies, directly to opposition groups within Syria, the White House deputy national security adviser said Sunday after President Obama met with the prime minister of Turkey at a nuclear security conference in Seoul.

The United States already had announced that it had been providing humanitarian aid to opposition groups.

An administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Sunday that the United States already has begun to supply some aid, including communications gear, to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The agreement with Turkey would formalize and increase that aid. Officials insist no weaponry will be sent.

The two countries agreed to set up a framework for further humanitarian and technical aid at the “Friends of Syria” meeting to be held on April 1 in Istanbul, according to the deputy security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes.

The Russian government on Sunday denounced what it called one-sided political support for the Syrian opposition from the United States and others. Russia has wielded its veto in the U.N. Security Council to head off a resolution condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its violent crackdown on the opposition.

On Sunday, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood outlined a vision of a post-Assad Syria, calling for “a democratic, civil state” with religious freedoms. Leaders of the Brotherhood said they wanted to share power with other groups, not to “control Syria alone.”

It was not clear on Sunday whether the nonlethal aid discussed by Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would go directly to rebel fighters. The opposition in Syria includes both armed rebels and nonviolent protest groups. Both are in dire need of medical equipment and other supplies, activists say.

Russia objects to any foreign military assistance to the rebels, but not stopped its own arms sales to the Assad government.

Kofi Annan, the envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League on the Syrian conflict, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Sunday. The two said that the international community should not take sides in the Syrian conflict.

Mr. Annan’s mission is to help bring an end to the violence and a political transition in Syria through mediation among the two sides and their international supporters.

There was no sign that the violence in Syria was abating.

Opposition activists reported heavy shelling in Homs and helicopters firing on cities in the north. The official Syrian news agency SANA said that an “armed terrorist group” had attacked a gas pipeline in the east; the agency uses that term to refer to the opposition.

A Human Rights Watch report issued Sunday said that Syrian troops were using civilians as human shields. The report quoted witnesses from four towns in the northern province of Idlib who said that groups of people, often including children, were forced to march in front of troops and armored vehicles.

Three witnesses in Ayn Larouz were cited as saying that troops there had placed children on their tanks.

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