Kerry, Hague Discuss Boosting Support for Syrian Opposition

June 13,2013

STATE DEPARTMENT — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague say a political solution is the only way to end the Syrian crisis. But as fighting continues, the two men met in Washington to discuss ways to increase support for Syrian rebels.

With no letup to the fighting, governments backing opposition forces are considering new ways to support the rebellion against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with government troops now massing near rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo.

"The regime appears to be preparing new assaults, endangering the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who are already in desperate need,
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the danger is made worse by Assad allies Hezbollah and Iran.

"So we are focusing our efforts now on doing all that we can to support the opposition as they work to change the balance on the ground," he said.

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are working toward talks on a new transitional authority for Syria. That will be the focus of next week's G8 summit, said host British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"We should use the G8 to try and bring pressure on all sides to bring about what we all want in this House," Cameron said, " a peace conference, a peace process and a move towards a transitional government in Syria. And I'm delighted to tell the House President Putin will be coming in advance of the G8 for meetings on Sunday when we can discuss this.

President Putin said Western democracies backing the opposition do not understand what is happening in Syria.

"Some people who are looking from the outside think that, if they can paint this entire region with someone's favorite brush - and this brush is democracy - then there will be peace and order, but this is not true. You cannot do anything - especially from the outside - without taking into account the history, tradition and religious specifics of this region," Putin said.

The conflict has sent tens of thousands of refugees into Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey, adding to pressure for a political solution, says U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann.

"I think world leaders feel that, unless they can find some way to get the parties together, begin to get them talking, we will confront a disaster in which perhaps half of all Syrians - 11 million people - will be in need of assistance by the end of this year," Heydemann said.

Hague said the scale of human suffering inflicted by President Assad "begs belief.

"The campaign of murder and tyranny that they have waged for more than 800 days now is not only a moral outrage, it's a grave threat to the wider region. It's a danger to our own national security," he said.

Having discussed "what further options might be exercised" in Syria, Hague and Kerry had nothing to announce.