Syrian rebel groups will establish a unified command center, to ensure that weapons provided by foreign backers do not end up in extremists’ hands, a member of the oppositional Syrian National Council said on Monday.
The opposition wants Western countries to provide it with military equipment, especially heavy armaments such as fighter jets, to even its odds against the regular army, Mahmoud Al-Hamza said.
“The West is afraid that the weapons will be obtained by extremists, who are already present in Syria. The creation of a military command for all the armed groups will solve this problem,” Al-Hamza said at a press conference in Moscow. He gave no timeframe.
The governments of the United States and about 10 European countries have pledged to arm the rebels, Al-Hamza said, without elaborating.
A number of Syrian opposition groups, including the Syrian National Council,on Sunday created a new coalition that they hope would be recognized as the single representative of the broad anti-Assad movement.
Russia, a longtime backer of Assad’s embattled regime, said on Monday that the new group, the National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, should engage official Damascus in dialogue, an option Al-Hamza was quick to dismiss.
Between 20,000 and 37,000 Syrians, by various estimates, were killed in the 20-month-long conflict between Assad’s regime and the opposition, which comprises groups of all stripes, from Communists and secular liberals to Islamists, including Al-Qaeda representatives.