(ROME) — For the first time, the United States will provide direct support to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday.
“I am proud to announce that the United States of America will be providing an additional $60 million immediately in non-lethal assistance to support the coalition,” Kerry, who was in Rome meeting with leaders of Syria’s opposition council, said.
The U.S. has already provided about $50 million of non-lethal assistance to Syria’s political opposition, including providing communications equipment like radios and computers to advocates and political opposition councils.
The new aid will consist of more non-lethal supplies, like food and medicine. It will be given to fighters who have been carefully vetted to have no ties to terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.
“This funding will allow the opposition to reach out and help the local councils to be able to rebuild in their liberated areas of Syria,” Kerry said.
Ahead of his announcement Thursday, Kerry acknowledged that the Syrian opposition needs more help.
Speaking in Paris on Wednesday, Kerry said the United States still believes that a political solution is the best way to end the bloodshed, but after two years of conflict it’s clear that the process needs to be sped up.
“That may require us to change President Assad’s current calculation. He needs to know that he can’t shoot his way out of this,” he said. “We need to convince him of that, and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that. And we are working together to have a united position with respect to that.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
Holly Yan, CNN