WASHINGTON: Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Qatar on Friday on a mission to co-ordinate with allies on the next steps in Syria as the United States considers how far to go on assisting rebels.
Kerry flew out of Washington on the start of a 12-day trip that will also include meetings in emerging US partner India, an Asia regional conference in Brunei and his latest attempt to revive the Middle East peace process.
The top US diplomat was to meet on Saturday fellow foreign ministers of the so-called London 11 “Friends of Syria” group in Qatar, an oil-rich monarchy at the forefront of helping rebels battling President Bashar Al Assad.
The United States has vowed to boost support for the rebels after declaring that Assad defied warnings not to use chemical weapons, but President Barack Obama is cautious about becoming embroiled in an increasingly sectarian conflict that has claimed nearly 100,000 lives.
“The goal of the meeting is to be very concrete about the importance of every kind of assistance that’s coming from the London 11 countries...being fully co-ordinated and going through only the Syrian opposition coalition,” a US official said.
The official said that the Qatar meeting was critical as the Syrian National Coalition was looking at its leadership, amid concerns in Washington that fighters against Assad lack cohesion and direction.
“This is all in support of energising, re-energising, the Syrian opposition coalition leadership to work to select its leadership,” the official said on condition of anonymity.