Thursday 17 August 2017

Libya's new rulers offer arms to Syrian rebels

Ruth Sherlock in Misurata

Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya's new authorities yesterday, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested "assistance" from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms and, potentially, volunteers.

"There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria," said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see."

It has been learned that preliminary discussions about arms supplies took place when members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- the country's main opposition movement -- visited Libya earlier this month.

"The Libyans are offering money, training and weapons to the Syrian National Council," added Wisam Taris, a human rights campaigner with links to the SNC.

Conflict

The disclosure came as rebels raided an airforce base outside the city of Homs and killed six pilots, according to a statement by the country's military.

Rebel attacks have become daily occurrences since the onset of the insurrection. The conflict has claimed at least 3,500 lives, mainly as part of a crackdown by the government.

Syria's regime has continued to defy pressure from the Arab League, ignoring yesterday's deadline to accept the deployment of 500 human rights observers, raising the possibility that economic sanctions may be agreed this weekend.

Last month, Libya's interim government became the first in the world to recognise Syria's opposition movement as the country's "legitimate authority".

Large shipments of weapons have not yet been sent, said activists, mainly because of logistical difficulties. But proposals for a "buffer zone" inside Syria, monitored by the Arab League, or the likely emergence of an area inside the country controlled entirely by rebels could solve this problem.

"The (Libyan) council's offer is serious," said Mr Taris. Turkey, which has denounced Mr Assad's regime, is already sheltering about 7,000 Syrian opposition activists, including the leader of the Free Syrian Army, the nascent rebel movement, in a "safe zone" along Turkey's border with Syria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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