U.S. and Turkey to step up ‘nonlethal’ aid to rebels in Syria

The New York Times reports: Turkey and the United States plan to provide “nonlethal” assistance, like communications equipment and medical supplies, directly to opposition groups inside Syria, and will urge other allies to do so as well, the White House deputy national security adviser said on Sunday, after President Obama met with the prime minister of Turkey at a nuclear security conference in Seoul, South Korea.

The United States had already announced that it had been providing humanitarian aid to opposition groups. And on Sunday an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the United States had already begun to supply some aid, including communications gear, to the rebel Free Syrian Army. The agreement with Turkey would formalize and increase that aid, though officials insist that no weaponry would be sent.

The two countries also agreed to set up a framework for further humanitarian and technical aid at the “Friends of Syria” meeting to be held Sunday in Istanbul, according to the deputy security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes.

The news that the United States was already assisting the Syrian opposition and would expand that aid was expected to annoy Russia, the most important of Syria’s few remaining friends. Russia has wielded its veto in the United Nations Security Council to head off a resolution condemning the government of President Bashar al-Assad for its violent crackdown on the opposition. On Sunday, the Russian government denounced what it called one-sided political support for the opposition from the United States and others.

The diplomatic developments came on the same day that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood outlined a vision of a post-Assad Syria, calling for “a democratic, civil state” with religious freedoms.

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