(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has made it clear that it will not arm Syria's rebels, but on Monday Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that the Obama administration will not block other countries that might try.
“We do not stand -- President Obama has made it clear that the United States does not stand in the way of other countries that have made a decision to provide arms, whether it's France or Britain or others,” Kerry told reporters Monday while appearing with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
Administration officials have consistently said that other countries are entitled to give whatever assistance they deem appropriate, but this was the first time that a senior official has specifically named a country, and particularly countries in Europe. Both France and Britain have called for the lifting of the U.N. Arms Embargo to Syria, and last week the U.K. announced it would begin sending armored vehicles and body armor to the rebel fighters.
As to whether the United States plans to follow suit and provide more direct help to the rebel army, Kerry demurred, repeating that the United States has to be concerned about weapons falling into the hands of extremist elements within the opposition.
“We have consistently said, and I say again, the longer the bloodshed goes on, the greater the prospect that the institutions of the state of Syria implode, and therefore the greater the danger is to the region and the world that chemical weapons fall into the hands of really bad actors. We do not want that to happen,” he said.
But he also blamed the continued violence squarely on Syria's President Assad and his regime, saying that the Obama administration and the world needs to continue to act to try and change Assad’s calculations.
“So as long as President Assad continues to attack his own people with Scuds, with aircraft, with tanks, there is an imbalance in this, which is creating more and more refugees pouring into Jordan, pouring into Lebanon, pouring into Turkey. And that is becoming a global catastrophe,” said Kerry. “If he believes he can shoot it out, Syrians and the region have a problem and the world has a problem.”
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