Syrian opposition appeals for arms at G8 meeting | News | DW | 11.04.2013
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Syrian opposition appeals for arms at G8 meeting

The first day of the G8 meeting has wrapped up with the leaders having mainly focused on the conflict in Syria. On the sidelines of the talks, foreign ministers met with Syrian rebels who renewed appeals for lethal aid.

The Syria conflict was "top of the agenda" as the G8 foreign ministers group - comprised of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - met for dinner late Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed.

On the sidelines of a two-day ministerial meeting in London, US Secretary of State John Kerry and other G8 foreign ministers held talks with members of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), including new opposition prime minister Ghassan Hitto.

The opposition renewed their appeals for arms at the meeting, which they have long called for in order to fight President Bashar al-Assad's regime in a conflict that has reached its third year and has cost some 70,000 lives, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, the head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, likely deepening Western concerns that weapons could fall into the wrong hands. The announcement is also likely to bolster assertions by Assad's regime that it is fighting "terrorists" who want to impose an Islamic state.

The US and EU are currently providing non-lethal aid and are beginning to distribute food and medical supplies to the Free Syrian Army, however they have stopped short of providing arms.

In the meeting, hosted by Hague, Kerry said the US was mulling ways to step up help for Syria's rebels, however nothing was promised, a US official said.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Hague, in a statement issued after the talks, said Britain was committed to finding a political solution to the crisis.

"We discussed what further assistance the UK could provide to save lives in Syria, and how we could work together to ensure this support was channelled most effectively," he said.

With talks continuing into Thursday, France and Britain are expected once again to press the case for amending or lifting an arms embargo on Syria.

Kerry also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a bid to find common ground on ending the conflict. Russia, along with Iran, is one of Syria's main allies.

North Korea also on the agenda

The escalating tensions with North Korea and Iran's nuclear agenda were also discussed Wednesday.

Russia's Lavrov warned against heating up the Korean crisis with military maneuvers, but stressed that Moscow and Washington had a common stand.

"On North Korea we have no differences with the United States," Lavrov told journalists in Russian as he met Kerry.

"One just shouldn't scare anyone with military maneuvers and there's a chance that everything will calm down," he added.

Britain, which holds the rotating presidency of the group this year, will host a leaders' summit in Northern Ireland in June.

hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)