Saudi Arabia arming Syrian rebel fighters

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare for an offensive against forces loyal to Syria”s President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo”s Salaheddine neighborhood.
Free Syrian Army fighters prepare for an offensive against forces loyal to Syria”s President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo”s
Salaheddine neighborhood.

ISTANBUL — The new head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he expected advanced weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia to reach rebel fighters soon, strengthening their currently weak military position.

Ahmad Jarba, who has close links to Saudi Arabia, told Reuters in his first interview since being elected president of the coalition on Saturday that the opposition would not go to a proposed peace conference in Geneva sponsored by the United States and Russia unless its military fortunes improve.

“Geneva in these circumstances is not possible. If we are going to go to Geneva we have to be strong on the ground, unlike the situation now, which is weak,” Jarba said yesterday after returning from the northern Syrian province of Idlib, where he met commanders of rebel brigades.

Asked if shoulder-fired weapons that could blunt President Bashar al-Assad’s massive advantage in armour and air power would reach the rebels after Saudi Arabia took a lead role in supporting the opposition in recent weeks, Jarba said: “We are pushing in this direction.”

“I think the situation is better than before. I think these weapons will arrive in Syria soon,” he said.

“My priority (is) to secure two-tier support for the Syrian people: military and humanitarian. We are working on getting advanced and medium-range weapons to the Free Syrian army and the liberated areas,” he added.

Jarba offered Assad’s forces a truce for the duration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins tomorrow, to stop fighting in the besieged city of Homs, where Sunni Muslim rebels face a ferocious ground and air onslaught by Hezbollah-backed troops and militias loyal to Assad. There has been no indication that the government is ready to accept such a truce. (Reuters)

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