US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Friends of Syria meeting in Doha yesterday as Western and Arab opponents of Bashar Al Assad sought to tighten coordination of their stepped-up support for rebels battling to overthrow the regime. Image Credit: Reuters

Doha: US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that supporters of the Syrian opposition will step up military and other aid in a bid to end an “imbalance” on the ground in President Bashar Al Assad’s favour.

Kerry, speaking at a ‘Friends of Syria’ conference of foreign ministers in Qatar, said Washington remained committed to a peace plan that includes a conference in Geneva and a transitional government picked both by Al Assad and the opposition.

He said the United States supported the original Geneva Communique as it sets up a “process by which a transnational government would be put in place to end the conflict, that transitional government being chosen by mutual consent of both the Al Assad regime as well as the opposition.”

The rebels need more support “for the purpose of being able to get to Geneva and to be able to address the imbalance on the ground,” Kerry said.

“The United States and other countries here — in their various ways, each choosing its own approach — will increase the scope and scale of assistance to the political and military opposition,” he said.

Coordinating aid

Kerry said the governments at the conference — which include stalwart supporters of the rebels Qatar and Saudi Arabia — would work to “coordinate our support” to the opposition’s Supreme Military Council.

He accused Al Assad of an “internationalisation” of the conflict which has claimed nearly 100,000 lives by bringing in the support of Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

“Reliable civilian governance and a stronger and more effective armed opposition will better enable the opposition to be able to provide the counterweight to the initiative of Al Assad,” he said.

Kerry voiced hope for a solution “where the future of Syria is not chosen by one man representing one family or one group that is willing and content to kill people of all backgrounds, of all faiths and all beliefs simply to hold on to power”.

US President Barack Obama has announced plans to step up assistance to the rebels after concluding that Al Assad crossed his stated red line by using chemical weapons.

But the United States has said little about its own assistance, with Obama voicing concern about becoming too involved in the increasingly sectarian conflict.