Middle East

New Qatar ruler will keep backing Syria opposition-rebel envoy

A Syrian man stands amidst the rubble of the Othman mosque, in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor, on July 24, 2013. The Syrian regime and rebels fighting to topple it have accused each other of using chemical weapons in the drawn-out conflict which has seen more than 100,000 people killed. AFP PHOTO / KARAM JAMAL

DUBAI: Qatar's new emir will keep helping Syrian rebels until President Bashar al-Assad's rule ends, Syria's opposition envoy to Doha said on Wednesday, seeking to dampen speculation the rich Gulf state had scaled back its role in supporting the revolt.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has not made a detailed statement of foreign policy priorities following his accession last month, and some analysts have speculated the country is rethinking its backing for Arab Spring rebellions.

Under the previous emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the tiny Gulf state had been among the most prominent regional backers of Syria's rebels, providing them with military and financial support and calling for an Arab force to end bloodshed if international diplomatic efforts fail.

Nizar al-Haraki, ambassador of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to Doha, told Reuters Qatar would continue to support the coalition despite Sheikh Hamad's abdication.

"I met with Sheikh Tamim and congratulated him on his new role as emir, and I expressed the importance of continuing support to Syria and he told me that Qatar will continue to support Syria," Haraki said in a telephone interview.

Haraki declined to be drawn on whether Qatar specifically was continuing to supply weapons to Syrian rebels groups, but said a number of Arab countries were providing military support. He said he had no details on the equipment that was being sent.

He added that proof of continuing Qatari assistance came a few days ago when Qatar gave $5 million to the SNC to purchase humanitarian aid supplies.

Moreover the newly-elected leader of the SNC, Ahmad al-Jarba, is planning to visit Qatar within days to coordinate aid supplies, Haraki added.

Last week, Jarba met Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in the kingdom. No official details were released about that meeting.

In recent months, dominant Gulf Arab power Saudi Arabia has prevailed over Qatar to impose itself as the main outside force supporting the Syrian rebels, a move that may curb the influence of Qatari-backed Islamist militants.

Haraki said in answer to a question that he did not expect Jabra's visit to Qatar to cause diplomatic friction between the SNC and Saudi Arabia.

"Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both brotherly countries and have good relations and there are no sensitivities about al-Jarba coming to Doha," he said.





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