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ISTANBUL — The United States will double its assistance to the Syrian opposition to $250 million and expand its non-lethal military supplies to rebel fighters, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.
In a statement after talks among the pro-opposition “Friends of Syria” group in Istanbul, Kerry said the new non-lethal military supplies would go beyond the current provisions of food rations and medical kits, but did not elaborate.
“This conflict is now spilling across borders and is now threatening neighboring countries,” Kerry told a news conference after the talks. “This bloodshed needs to stop.
“The president directed me to step up our efforts,” he said, adding: “Today it is safe to say we are at a critical moment.”
The State Department statement said it would work with the Syrian opposition to determine how the new assistance would be spent.
The types of new non-lethal military supplies would be “determined in collaboration with SMC (the rebel Supreme Military Council) leadership,” it said.
U.S. media had reported that Washington is preparing to provide the rebels with protective battlefield equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and night-vision goggles, as well as communications gear — but not the arms they have requested.
Kerry urged international donors to make similar pledges of assistance with the goal of reaching $1 billion in total international support for the opposition.
He also announced an additional $25 million in food assistance to help people inside Syria and refugees in Jordan, to be distributed by the U.N.’s World Food Program.