US doubles non-lethal aid to Syria's opposition
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conferance at the Friends of Syria meeting on Saturday in Istanbul. (Photo: AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE)
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US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Sunday a doubling of US aid to opposition forces in Syria, offering an additional $123 million in non-lethal assistance, according to reports.
Kerry made the announcement in a statement issued after a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday of the Syrian opposition and its 11 main foreign supporters, known as the Friends of Syria.
According to reports, US officials said a portion of the new aid will be used to provide additional "non-lethal" supplies to the military wing of the opposition umbrella organization, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Officials did not specify the items that will be sent, which they say will be determined in consultation with the coalition. But US media reports have suggested Washington is preparing to provide protective battlefield equipment to the rebels such as body armor, armored vehicles and night-vision goggles, as well as communications gear.
According to the BBC, Kerry also said all aid from the Friends of Syria will now be channeled through the Turkey-based Free Syrian Army group headed by Gen. Salim Idris.
Kerry stopped short on Sunday of a pledge to supply weapons to insurgents fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
However, he said that the opposition's foreign backers were committed to continuing support and "there would have to be further announcements about the kind of support that that might be in the days ahead" if Syrian government forces failed to pursue a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The US' latest pledge brings its non-lethal aid to opposition forces in Syria to $250 million.