The US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to send ‘non-lethal’ aid to the anti-government armed groups operating inside Syria.
According to the US deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, Washington and Ankara reached the agreement after holding a meeting in Seoul on Sunday ahead of a nuclear summit due in the South Korean capital.
The US official said that communications equipment was to be included in the assistance.
Obama and Erdogan also agreed to push for the second meeting of the so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ anti-government group, scheduled to be held in Istanbul, Turkey on April 2, which is expected to finish the details for the deployment of aid and medical supplies for the rebels.
The US president said that the two sides were “very much in agreement that there should be a process whereby a transition to a representative and legitimate government in Syria takes place.”
A defected military officer, who refused to be named, told reporters in the western Syrian city of Al-Qusayr on February 28 that the armed groups had received weapons and anti-aircraft missiles from France and the United States.
“We now have weapons and anti-aircraft missiles and…we will defeat [Syrian President] Bashar [al-Assad],” the general said.
On February 24, Tunisia hosted the first ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting, during which Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal described arming Syrian rebels as ‘an excellent idea…because they have to protect themselves.’
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also attended the meeting, threatened Assad with a ‘heavy cost’ if he refused to resign.
Other senior US officials have also called for increased pressure on the Syrian government.
“Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power,” said Republican Senator John McCain, while addressing the US Senate earlier in the month.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. The violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including many security forces.
Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
The West and the Syrian opposition, however, accuse the government of killing protesters.