The opposition Syrian National Council said Thursday it wanted to organise weapons deliveries to Syrian rebels and was uniting armed factions fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Speaking to reporters in Paris, SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun said a new “military bureau” announced Wednesday would coordinate the armed resistance and act as a conduit for foreign countries seeking to send arms.
Arab countries including regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia have urged the international community to arm opposition fighters in Syria, where ground troops have launched an assault on a rebel-held district of the flashpoint city of Homs.
“We know that some countries have expressed a desire to arm the revolutionaries. The SNC, via its military bureau, wanted to organise this flow to avoid direct arms deliveries from particular countries,” Ghalioun said.
“The SNC will be this link between those who want to help and the revolutionaries. It is out of the question that arms go into Syria in confusion.”
Kuwait’s parliament joined the call for arming the rebels on Thursday, adopting a non-binding resolution urging the oil-rich Gulf state to supply weapons to the opposition and to sever diplomatic ties with Damascus.
Ghalioun said the new military bureau would bring together the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other groups of deserters.
He said both Riad al-Asaad, the head of the FSA, and General Mustafa al-Sheikh who defected to form the “The Higher Revolutionary Council”, had “agreed to be part of this bureau”.
Both men are currently based in Turkey.
“This military bureau will be located as close as possible to the field of action, probably in Turkey,” Ghalioun said.
“Its mission will be to see which arms are necessary and for which missions,” he said. “We will determine our requests, our needs for arms and we will see which country to get them from.”
He said the SNC had not yet received any “precise proposals” from foreign countries on the supplying of arms.
“We do not believe there are currently many arms entering Syria. The FSA’s weapons come from within Syria, from the army, and there are also arms sold in Syria,” Ghalioun said.
He said some weapons had been coming in from Lebanon but that the border was now almost entirely closed and border areas mined.
Ghalioun insisted arms deliveries were aimed only at protecting civilians from attacks by Assad’s forces.
“This is about defending civilians, not launching a war. This is about protecting the people’s peaceful revolution. That is the defensive mission given to our armed groups.”
Western nations and in particular the United States have raised concerns that arming the Syrian opposition could lead to weapons falling into the hands of radical groups including Al-Qaeda.
Ghalioun said the SNC rejected the presence of foreign fighters in Syria, saying “we will defend the sovereignty of Syrian territory to the end.”
Ghalioun also said Edith Bouvier, the wounded French journalist believed to be in Homs, was in a safe area on Wednesday but that her situation was unclear on Thursday.
“I had a message yesterday from inside saying that she was in a protected place. I do not know today if she is still in a protected place,” he said.