Tillerson met Syrian opposition, US happy Russian-hosted peace talks ‘did no damage’
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Syrian “opposition” factions in Jordan’s capital at a time when the US pledged funds to insurgents.
Wednesday’s meeting with the Turkish-based Syrian National Council and the Qatari-harbored Syrian National Coalition came after Tillerson and his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, signed a preliminary deal to increase US military aid to the kingdom by more than a quarter.
At a conference of regional nations Kuwait on Tuesday, Tillerson pledged $200 million in aid to areas taken from Islamic State (ISIS, also known as DAESH) by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the Kurdish- separatist YPG and some Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions. The Kuwait meeting was called to raise $88 billion for rebuilding Iraq after IS was declared defeated in the country.
Tillerson’s face-to-face with anti-Syrian government forces comes after the US ignored last month’s Russia-led peace talks in Sochi. Speaking with the opposition ahead of the meeting, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield derided the Russian-led peace efforts, which were boycotted by some 40 Western-backed opposition factions including the Syrian National Coalition and Kurdish groups.
"We got in the end a communique which validated the UN role," Satterfield said, according to SBS news. "So this game, this theatre that was Sochi...finally came out in a way that did no damage." The conference, which was attended by around 1,400 delegates, ended with an agreement to set up a commission to draft a new post-war constitution for Syria.
Last week UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thanked Russia for hosting the event. “I believe we are at a meaningful stage in the peace process,” he said.
The event concluded with “a statement fully in line with a common understanding” between Russia and the UN on resolving the conflict, Guterres said.
The closed-door consultations with the pro-insurgent groups may be a bid to smooth the way for Tillerson’s next stop in Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened the US with an “Ottoman slap” on Tuesday over its continued support for the YPG, a sister organisation of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara, Washington and EU member states.
The Syrian National Coalition is the political wing of the FSA, a loose collection of disparate anti-government factions variously supported by the US, Turkey and other enemies of Syria.