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Friend meeting to focus on military aid for Syria rebels

Foreign ministers from the “core group” of the Friends of Syria, a gathering of 11 nations including Turkey, the United States and Arab and Western countries that support the opposition, will meet in İstanbul on Saturday to discuss the crisis in Syria, which, according to UN figures, has left 70,000 people dead. US Secretary of State John Kerry will be among the participants at the meeting, marking his third visit to Turkey in two months. “Previous meetings consisted of assessing the situation. We expect this meeting to produce a document that sets out concrete measures,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Today's Zaman. However, the official did not elaborate on  what these measures could be, saying they need to be discussed and agreed upon by the participants. “Humanitarian, political and military aspects will be discussed,” said the official. “Our priorities are to end the bloodshed, improve humanitarian conditions and clear the way for the start of a peace process in Syria.” The meeting comes as it is revealed that Britain and France have sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stating they have reliable evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons near Aleppo, in Homs and possibly in Damascus.
 
Speaking on Thursday night in a televised interview, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that claims that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons should be investigated thoroughly and complained that a UN delegation set up to investigate the allegations is still being denied permission by the Syrian regime to enter Syria.
 
Turkey, a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, complains that the international community has not done enough in Syria. In the interview on Thursday night, Davutoğlu said the core group of the Friends of Syria will discuss ways to “find the most effective method to stop the oppression in Syria” when it meets on Saturday.
 
Davutoğlu said the Syrian Army has fired more than 200 Scud missiles into Aleppo, calling these attacks a war crime and calling for international action for prosecution.
 
The foreign minister also voice support for the creation of a humanitarian corridor within Syria, calling on the international community to display a “firm and determined stance to ensure help is delivered to Syrians who are trying to survive the bombardments.”
 
Davutoğlu said 205 Scud missiles have been fired from Damascus into Aleppo over the past two to three months but did not reveal the source of this information. “Every time a Scud is fired, a neighborhood is destroyed,” he told the private CNN Türk television station. “No one can argue that this is not a war crime. There must be action taken against war crimes.”
 
He also criticized an arms embargo on Syria, saying a similar embargo imposed on the former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995 resulted in massacre of Bosniaks by heavily armed Serbs. “Now, the international community is turning a blind eye to the massacre of Syrians. We need to display a firm stance and send a clear and determined message to the Syrian regime,” said Davutoğlu. Differences with Russia
 
Davutoğlu insisted that Assad must leave and said there is clear disagreement between Turkey and Russia regarding Syria. “No one tries to hide it,” he said.
 
The core group of the Friends of Syria had its first meeting in Rome in late February. Saturday's meeting is expected to be attended by Turkey, the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Representatives of the Syrian opposition coalition will also participate in the talks, according to a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
 
Ministers of Foreign Affairs also said in a statement that "the current situation in Syria is the result of the regime's policies based on the suppression of the legitimate demands of the people through violence. The international community is making effort to support the people of Syria and to enable the establishment of peace and stability in this country as soon as possible. The Istanbul meeting is being organized with the purpose of contributing to the coordination of efforts in this direction and taking concrete steps."

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