22 Jun 2013

Syrian rebels to receive ‘urgent support’

Western and Arab countries opposed to President Bashar al-Assad agree to give urgent military support to Syrian rebels fighting for his overthrow.

Ministers from the 11 main countries which form the Friends of Syria group agreed “to provide urgently all the necessary material and equipment to the opposition on the ground, each country in its own way in order to enable them to counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies”.

The group includes Britain, the US, France and Germany as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

They also condemned “the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq”, demanding that they withdraw immediately.

Guerrillas from Lebanon’s Shia pro-Iranian Hezbollah organisation spearheaded the recapture of the strategic border town of Qusair from mainly Sunni Muslim rebels two weeks ago.

Read more: The conflict between Sunni and Shia

Hezbollah and Shia Iraqi gunmen have also been fighting around the Shia shrine of Sayyid Zainab south of Damascus, while Iranian military commanders are believed to be advising Assad’s officers on their counter-offensives against the rebels.

The ministers said the growing sectarian nature of the conflict and the foreign interventions “threaten the unity of Syria (and) broaden the conflict” across the region.

They also expressed strong concern at the increasing presence of “terrorist elements” and growing radicalisation in Syria.