Kerry announces $60 million in assistance to Syrian opposition

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 10:38am

(CNN) -- The United States will provide an additional $60 million in assistance to the Syrian opposition over the coming months, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday.

Kerry announced the aid after he met with Syria's national opposition coalition leader, MOA Al-Khatib in Rome.

The funds will enable the opposition group to help local councils and communities in liberated areas expand the delivery of basic goods and essential services.

They will also help with administrative functions, including security, sanitation and educational services.

Kerry also announced that the United States will look for opportunities to work with the Supreme Military Council to provide nonlethal support to the Free Syrian Army. It will include things such as military rations to feed hungry fighters, and military supplies for the wounded.

Details were provided by a senior state department official in advance of Kerry's public remarks in Rome.

The aid, in the form of goods and services, will be used to enhance the capacity of the national opposition coalition and the local councils to extend the rule of law, and establish interim justice as needed in newly-liberated territories.

"Syrians who share our values need to demonstrate that they can deliver a better day and need to set an example of a Syria where daily life is governed neither by the brutality of the Assad regime, nor by the agenda of al Qaeda-affiliated extremists," the official said.

The aid is designed to allow the opposition to show what can be accomplished, to set an example "if those still supporting (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad will peel away from him and will change their calculation, stop the fight and begin supporting a true transition."

The goal is to meet the needs of Syrians in territory held by the rebels through the main opposition group in hopes of keep extremists from filling that void for basic needs.

"If the Syrian opposition coalition can't touch, improve and heal the lives of Syrians in those places that have been freed, then extremists will step in and do it," the official said.

The United States will send technical advisers through implementing partners to support the opposition group's staff at its Cairo headquarters to execute the assistance. This will assure that it meets the United States' requirements for foreign assistance, including vetting, oversight and monitoring.

This $60 million is in addition to the $50 million in nonlethal support the United States is providing to the opposition coalition.

Additionally, CNN reported Wednesday, the Obama administration is considering providing more nonlethal military equipment that could assist the Syrian rebels in combat, including night vision goggles, body armor and military vehicles.

Kerry did not announce that element of aid, but the official who briefed reporters said the opposition has raised a lot of needs in the Rome meetings and the administration will continue to "keep those under review."

"We will do this with vetted individuals, vetted units, so it has to be done carefully and appropriately," the official said.
 

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