First Published: 2013-03-05

 

Kerry: no question of army Syria rebels

 

US Secretary of State promises to empower Syrian opposition, warns Iran time of nuclear talks could run out.

 

Middle East Online

By Nicolas Revise - ABU DHABI

'There is no guarantee that one weapon or another might not fall in (to) the wrong hands'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has promised to "empower" Syria's opposition, while warning arch-foe Iran that time for talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions could run out.

Kerry, on his first tour to the Gulf region since taking up the post, held talks with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials on Monday and also met in Riyadh with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who flew in unannounced.

Kerry stressed there was no question of arming the Syrian opposition, even as his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal insisted on the right of Syrians to self-defence.

The United States will continue to work with its "friends to empower the Syrian opposition," Kerry told reporters during a joint press conference with Prince Saud.

Asked about reports of arms being sent to Syria's rebels from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Kerry replied: "The moderate opposition has the ability to make sure that the weapons are getting to them and not to the wrong hands."

However, he added, "there is no guarantee that one weapon or another might not fall in (to) the wrong hands."

Kerry will spend day three of his maiden Gulf tour in Qatar on Tuesday, with the Syrian conflict and Iran's disputed nuclear programme still topping the agenda.

The United States has so far refused to arm Syrian rebels locked in a two-year war against President Bashar al-Assad's loyalists.

Several oil-rich monarchies of the six-member GCC, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have supported the rebellion against Assad, a staunch ally of their regional arch-foe Iran.

The GCC members are dissatisfied at the refusal of US President Barack Obama's administration to arm Syrian rebels and its perceived lenient attitude towards Tehran, analysts say.

The United States praised the holding of elections for a council to run rebel-held areas of Syria's Aleppo province, as well as the new opposition leader's first visit to the country.

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib's decision to visit the largely rebel-held northern province was a "really courageous choice," State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in Washington.

Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition, slipped into the country on Sunday as elections were being held for the Aleppo provincial council.

The vote was being held in the Turkish town of Gaziantep for security reasons, but the future body will be based inside Syria.

Syrian rebels overran the northern city of Raqa on Monday, scoring their biggest victory since the rebellion against Assad erupted.

Kerry said his discussions with Gulf officials on Monday had also covered ongoing talks between world powers and Iran on its disputed nuclear programme.

Talks with Iran "will not go on for the sake of talks," he said. "Talks cannot become an instrument for delay that in the end makes the situation more dangerous. So there is a finite amount of time."

"Obama has made it clear that Iran will not get nuclear weapons," said the top US diplomat. "There is a huge danger of proliferation."

World powers negotiating with Iran to rein in its nuclear programme concluded another round of talks in Kazakhstan last week, after putting forward a proposal to ease biting sanctions if Tehran halts the sensitive work of enriching uranium

The world powers accuse Tehran of masking a weapons programme under the guise of a civilian atomic drive, charges Iran denies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday that Iran was getting closer to crossing a crucial "red line."

"Iran enriches more and more uranium, it installs faster and faster centrifuges," and it is "running out the clock" on diplomatic efforts to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear capability, Netanyahu said.

During a flurry of meetings in Riyadh on Monday, Kerry also held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz but not King Abdullah.

He also met Abbas at a luncheon meeting which had not been scheduled.

"Well, Mr. President I have been waiting for this meeting and I think you have too," Kerry told Abbas. "That's right, that's right," replied Abbas.

Prior to their meeting Palestinian envoy in Riyadh Jamal al-Shawbaki told the official Voice of Palestine radio that Abbas "will present the Palestinian point of view to the new US administration ahead of Obama's visit".

Obama is due to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah during a visit on March 20-22.

After winding up the Saudi leg of his tour, Kerry headed to Abu Dhabi where he was to meet the Emirati crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.

 

Erdogan resumes Gulen arrests after referendum win

France says has proof that Syrian regime behind 'chemical attack'

Trump says Assad's future 'not a deal breaker' on Syria

Iraq holding hundreds of millions of Qatar’s ransom money

Global leaders call for ridding world 'forever' of chemical arms

Exiled Turkish journalist urges EU to confront Erdogan

Morocco seizes 420 tonnes of plastic bags in year since ban

Mass funeral for dozens slain in Syria bus attack

Qatar insists Baghdad had ‘full knowledge’ of hostage deal

UN eyes new Yemen peace talks

Turkey opposition heads to European court to challenge referendum

Turkey says informed US, Russia prior to Kurdish strikes

Iraqi forces liberate ancient city of Hatra from IS

Saudi fire stops explosives-laden boat from Yemen

50 Syria migrants stranded on Morocco-Algeria border

Libya asks EU for patrol boats to stem migrant wave

Bangladesh approves Saudi-funded mosque project

German Chancellor regrets Israel snub of foreign minister

UAE sentences Iranian to 10 years for sanctions breach

IS using weaponised drones in battle for key Syria dam

Saudi government shake-up strengthens position of king's son

Israel allows NGO director visa after 'bias' row

Kuwait suspect confesses to plotting IS attacks

Russia has thwarted IS attack on far east oil hub Sakhalin

Death toll in Turkish air raids on Syria Kurds rises to 28

Draft resolution to pressure Polisario to withdraw from Guerguerat

Baghdad condemns Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish forces

Iran, major powers to review adherence to nuclear deal

Turkish warplanes pound Kurdish forces in Iraq, Syria

IS executes Iraqi civilians in Mosul

Netanyahu cancels talks with German FM over NGO meetings

Qatar World Cup workers receive random health checks

Libyan government calls for foreign intervention as fighting spreads

Tunisia parliament votes to ease harsh drug law

Nostalgia dominates Iraqi Ba’ath conference in Spain

Young Iraqi innovator building home-made drones

Moroccans call on Le Pen voters to quit country

Turkey court rejects opposition challenge to referendum result

Spain arrests 4 for links to Belgium IS attacks

Iraq forces push towards UNESCO site in Hatra

Israel appoints country's first female sharia judge

Frontline clinic is window to hell of IS-held Mosul

Iraq forces retake west Mosul neighbourhood from IS

Iraqi Kurds lament ‘unacceptable’ Turkish air strikes

Khamenei urges Iran candidates to focus on home