Middle East

Aid to Syria rebels fuels bloodshed: pro-Damascus daily

(From L, front row) France's ambassador to Syria Eric Chevallier, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Syrian National Coalition President Mouaz al-Khatib, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani pose during the family photo of a meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial" group on February 28, 2013 in Rome. AFP PHOTO / POOL / CLAUDIO PERI

DAMASCUS: US and European decisions to back Syria's rebels with direct aid will only lead to more bloodshed and encourage "terrorism" in the war-torn country, a pro-Damascus daily said on Friday.

At a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome, Washington said on Thursday that it would provide the insurgents with non-lethal aid, while Brussels left the door open for a similar move and extended sanctions against the Damascus regime.

"In a new episode of the 'Friends of Syria' conferences, the West... continued to exploit the crisis in Syria and the blood of Syrians ... by encouraging more terrorism," wrote Tishrin newspaper.

The daily criticised US Secretary of State John Kerry for having "forgotten about a political solution through dialogue, rather than providing certain parties weapons that will be directed against the Syrian government".

In Rome, Kerry said the United States would provide aid to the rebel fighters in the form of food and medical assistance, as well as $60 million in extra assistance to the political opposition.

"This money will fall into the hands of people who live in the best Western hotels and have never been among Syrians, or it will result in weapons, food and medical aid for those who murder and destroy," said Tishrin.

It said the European aid would "inflame violence and terrorism" and "legitimise arming the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda," referring to a jihadist group increasingly involved in the 23-month war.

Damascus labels as "terrorists" rebels who have been fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad's regime since his forces launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests that erupted in March 2011.

The United Nations says the conflict has cost the lives of at least 70,000 people and uprooted hundreds of thousands.

The opposition and outgunned rebels have been appealing for the international community to arm the insurgents, but Western states are reluctant, fearing the weapons will fall into the hands of extremists like Al-Nusra.





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