U.S. to Strengthen Ties to Syrian Opposition

Syrian opposition coalition president Ahmad Jarba, left, met with Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations in September 2013.
Syrian opposition coalition president Ahmad Jarba, left, met with Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations in September 2013.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer
Washington,
05 May 2014

The United States is taking additional measures to support the Syrian opposition coalition, local communities in Syria and members of the moderate armed opposition, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said May 5.

In addition, the State Department is working with the U.S. Congress to provide more than $27 million in new nonlethal assistance, which would bring the total nonlethal support provided by the United States to nearly $287 million, Harf said at the State Department’s daily press briefing in Washington.

The United States is also stepping up deliveries of nonlethal assistance to commanders in the Free Syrian Army to enhance their logistical capability, she added.

A delegation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces began arriving May 4 in Washington and will conduct meetings and briefings through May 14, a senior administration official said at an earlier background briefing for journalists. The delegation is led by Ahmad Jarba, president of the coalition, the official said.

The delegation will meet with Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as other senior U.S. officials from the State Department, the Treasury Department and the National Security Council.

“The United States recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in December 2012,” Harf told reporters.

“The coalition has built an inclusive and moderate institution that has demonstrated its commitment to serving the interests and needs of the Syrian people, rejected extremism and worked to advance a negotiated political transition in Syria,” she said.

Harf announced that the coalition’s representative offices in the United States are now designated foreign missions under the U.S. Foreign Missions Act.

Kerry described Syria’s civil conflict as a peaceful protest by schoolchildren that escalated into a grindingly brutal civil war with thousands dead and millions more displaced from their homes.

According to the United Nations, since the civil war began more than 150,000 civilians have been killed; 2.3 million are registered as refugees; an additional 6.5 million people are displaced inside Syria; and there have been at least 17 confirmed cases of polio, which had been eradicated in Syria more than a decade ago.

President Bashar al-Assad has announced plans to hold a presidential election June 3. His family has held power in Syria for 43 years. Assad succeeded his father in 2000 and ran unopposed for a second term in 2007.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria not to hold the June 3 election. Ban spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said that holding the election during the civil war “will damage the political process and hamper the prospects for political solution.”

The senior administration official called the proposed presidential election “a parody of democracy.”