Syrian rebels 'need more advanced weapons'
Syrian rebels 'need more advanced weapons'Reuters

Syria's opposition called for "sophisticated" arms at an Arab summit in Kuwait Tuesday while Saudi Arabia stressed the need for a change in military balance to "end the impasse".  

UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, however, insisted on the need for a "political solution" to the three-year conflict, urging an "end to the supply of arms to all parties".  

Opposition Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba repeated calls on the international community to supply rebels with "sophisticated weapons" as the two-day summit opened.

"I do not ask you for a declaration of war," said Jarba, urging Arab leaders to put pressure on the international community to comply with pledges to supply arms.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, whose country is a key backer of the Syrian rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, said the international community was "betraying" the opposition by failing to arm them and leaving them as "easy prey".

A solution to the conflict, in which regime forces have recently made significant advances, requires a "change in the balance on the ground to end the impasse", he said.  

National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said rebels needed urgently "anti-aircraft missiles" to fend-off "barrel bombs", which activists say regime forces have been raining down on fighters and civilians alike.  

The conflict in Syria, which in mid-March entered a fourth year, has killed more than 140,000 people and displaced millions.  

Jarba said a decision not to hand over Syria's seat in the Arab League to the opposition sends a wrong message to Assad, telling him to continue "to kill".  

"Let me say quite frankly that keeping Syria's seat empty... sends a clear message to Assad that he can kill and that the seat will wait for him," he said.  

The Syria government's brutal repression of protests which erupted in March 2011 resulted in its suspension from the 22-member Cairo-based Arab League.  

Its seat was allocated to the National Coalition at last year's Arab summit in Qatar, but has not been handed over because the opposition must meet legal requirements, said Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in his address to the summit that wraps up Wednesday, accused the Syrian government of "buying time" by "pretending to accept a political solution."

'No military solution'

Brahimi, however, urged a revival of peace talks.    

"I call upon Europe, the United Nations and the United States to take clear steps to reactivate the Geneva talks," which broke off on February 15.    

"There is no military solution," he declared.    

While the Syrian conflict is taking centre stage at the summit, a regional rift over Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been kept off the agenda.  

The dispute pits Qatar against Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and has apparently affected the level of summit, the first to be hosted by Kuwait.    

Kuwait said 13 heads of state were attending the meeting, with low-profile representation from its Gulf partners.    

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah told the summit that Arab rifts are threatening Arab aspirations and insisted that "we are required to resolve these disputes... and achieve unity."  

Efforts to settle the inter-Arab rift appear to have been placed on the back burner, with officials ruling out any compromise being struck in Kuwait.  

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told reporters it was not possible to forge a compromise with Qatar during the summit because "the wound is too deep".    

Kuwait's foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbours would "be resolved within the Gulf house", not at the summit.  

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar in protest at Doha's perceived support of the Muslim Brotherhood, branded a terrorist organisation by Cairo and Riyadh.  

Regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab leaders are expected to call for $100 million in monthly aid for the Palestinian Authority and to reject demands by Israel that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  

PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, fresh from talks with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, was to brief his Arab counterparts during the summit.