U.S. Says Funding Syrian Rebels Won’t Undermine UN Peace Plan

Recent American and Arab pledges to provide Syrian opposition groups with financial and technical assistance aren’t undercutting UN envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to broker a peace deal between President Bashar Al Assad’s government and rebels, says U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

At a “Friends of Syria” conference with opposition groups last weekend in Turkey, American officials announced they would begin providing Syrian insurgents with non-lethal communication equipment and other technical assistance in their struggle against the regime. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, leading Arab opponents of the Assad government, also pledged at the conference to pay the salaries of the Free Syrian Army and offer other financial support.

On Monday, UN special envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council that Syrian officials had agreed to end offensive military operations against rebel controlled areas by an April 10 deadline. The former Secretary General also urged members of the 15-nation security body to back his proposed timeline for a ceasefire.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari Monday said that states who are publicly announcing material support to opposition groups were sabotaging Annan’s efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Rice, who holds the Presidency of the Security Council’s in April, dismissed those accusations in a press conference Tuesday.

“ We don’t think it interferes[with Annan’s plan] in any way. The friends of a democratic Syria very much expressed and underscored their support for the work of the joint special envoy and his six point plan.” Rice told reporters. “The friends of a democratic Syria recognize that against the overwhelming force that has been afflicted on the people of Syria, that the opposition, which is far less capable of defending itself, needs political support and some members also have agreed to enhance material support, including the provision of financial support to elements of the opposition.”

The U.S. Ambassador added that even after agreeing to Annan’s timeline, Syria continued ignore its commitments to withdraw troops and end offensive military operations.

“And that has nothing to do with what was done and said in Istanbul [at the Friends of Syria meeting].” she said.

Syrian ally Russia has on several occasions criticized reports that countries were providing assistance to armed anti-government groups. It is unclear if Russia, who has twice vetoed resolutions condemning the Assad regime, will support Kofi Annan’s April 10 deadline at the Security Council.

While Moscow supports Annan’s diplomatic mission, it has opposed various attempts at enforcing what it calls “artificial deadlines” since the crisis began over a year ago.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters Tuesday he hoped Council members would be able to agree to a statement backing the April 10 deadline in the next few days.

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