Syria opposition presses Kerry for US arms
UNITED NATIONS - Syrian opposition leaders on Thursday, July 25 pressed US Secretary of State John Kerry to arm rebel groups and said there could be no peace talks while government forces kill civilians.
Kerry held his first meeting with Syrian National Coalition president Ahmad Jarba at the US mission to the United Nations in New York.
The coalition is to meet UN Security Council envoys on Friday.
After the talks, Jarba focused on the opposition's need for arms, while Kerry stressed flagging efforts to hold an international peace conference.
President Bashar al-Assad is "pursuing a military victory using indiscriminate weapons ranging from chemical weapons to cluster bombs," Jarba said in a statement after the meeting.
"Until the regime has been forced to accept a political solution, we must have the means to protect ourselves."
The US commitment of military support "needs to happen fast, and in a way that allows us to defend ourselves and protect civilians," he added.
Kerry said it was a "positive" meeting but would not discuss possible US arms supplies.
"The Syrian opposition committed that they believe Geneva II is very important and they agreed to work over the course of the next couple of weeks to pinpoint the terms, the conditions, under which they think that it can work," Kerry told reporters.
The United States and Russia agreed in May to press for a follow up to a meeting held in Geneva in June last year which set out a plan for a transition process in Syria, where 28 months of conflict have left more than 100,000 dead, according to UN figures.
"I felt very positive about it. I think it is very constructive. There is a strong feeling that Geneva is important and we will work it out, " Kerry added.
Burhan Ghalioun, a senior coalition member who was in the delegation, told AFP there could be no talks with the government while Assad forces were killing civilians.
"In principle nobody is against Geneva II, but we cannot enter into talks while the regime continues to kill hundreds every day and use arms of mass destruction," said Ghalioun. - Rappler.com