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.

 

41 killed in Istanbul airport bomb, gun attacks

Democratic hopes fade away in Egypt

US-backed Syria rebels advance on key IS link to Iraq

Ban to Israeli PM: Gaza blockade ‘collective punishment’

Egypt becoming departure country for migrants to Europe

Egypt president urges religious reforms to counter extremists

First aid convoy since 2012 enters two besieged Syria towns

Race to succeed Cameron begins after stunning Brexit vote

Yemen peace talks to take two-week break

Iraq secures $2.7 billion US military loan

ISIS pushes back Syria rebel offensive on Iraq route

Israel cabinet approves Turkey reconciliation deal

Turkey airport attack slams limping tourism industry

Putin lifts Turkey travel restrictions, orders trade 'normalised'

Fears for stranded Syrian refugees as Jordan blocks access

Bahrain activist back in jail despite worsening health

Witnesses recount Istanbul attack

Car bomb kills 10 in Kurdish-held Syria town

Alstom-led consortium awarded $2.88 billion Dubai metro extension

Israel revokes controversial 'Hannibal Directive'

Detained Bahraini activist hospitalised

UN chief urges Netanyahu to make tough choices

Saudi Aramco, SABIC in joint petrochemicals study

Yemen clashes, air strikes kill 37 civilians

Egypt's anti-graft tsar becomes public enemy number one

Iraqis shun return to 'cursed' Fallujah

Lebanese army raids refugee camps after bombings

Ankara goes back on compensation offer for downed Russia jet

Iraq court deals blow to PM's cabinet reform efforts

UAE jails Emirati woman for spying for Hezbollah

Eight hurt in Turkey car bombing blamed on PKK

Iran hopes Saudi embassy attack trial will restore confidence

France charges Assad's uncle with graft

EgyptAir black box flight recorder 'repaired'

11 Kurdish rebels, 3 Revolutionary Guards killed in Iran

Egypt deports British-Lebanese TV show host

Turkey seeks to restore broken ties with Russia

Deadly bombings target Yemen troops in ex-Qaeda bastion

NGOs press EU leaders on Africa migrant plan

Jordanian intelligence officials sold weapons for Syria rebels on black market

On British-Irish border, Brexit breeds worries for future

New lawyers of Gaddafi son urge ICC to drop case

Bahrain jails 5 people on charges linked to ‘terrorism’

Erdogan apologises to Putin over downing of Russia jet

Clashes continue at Al-Aqsa compound