This originally appeared on State Department’s Dipnote Blog.
Stop four of Secretary Kerry’s Europe trip landed him in Rome and culminated with an announcement of $60 million in non-lethal assistance to strengthen the organizational capacity of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC). With this announcement, the United States is now providing more than $115 million in non-lethal support for the civilian opposition. As liberated areas across Syria struggle to rebuild their communities without the support of the central government, this additional assistance will enable the SOC to help enhance the capacity of local councils and communities so they can expand the delivery of basic goods and essential services, fulfill administrative functions, and extend the rule of law.
Significantly, the Secretary also announced that the United States would extend the provision of food rations and medical kits to the opposition, including the Supreme Military Council, in order to feed those in need and to tend to the sick and wounded.
In Secretary Kerry’s words: “We do this because we need to stand on the side of those in this fight who want to see Syria rise again in unity and see a democracy and human rights and justice.”
Standing in solidarity side-by-side with the Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi and Syrian Opposition Council Chairman Moaz al-Khatib, Secretary Kerry noted that the international community stands with a united voice in its commitment to helping the Syrian people achieve their goals.
“The United States and all the countries represented here believe the Syrian Opposition Coalition can successfully lead the way to a peaceful transition, but they cannot do it alone. They need more support from all of us, and they need Bashar al-Assad to make a different set of decisions.”
While in Italy, Secretary Kerry attended a dinner with EU and NATO member foreign ministers and met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius. He had the opportunity to meet with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and other government ministers and attend an event commemorating the 2013 Italian Year of Culture with Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
In a statement, Secretary Kerry also thanked Pope Benedict, who left the Holy See on February 28, for his leadership. He shared good wishes to the Pope on behalf of the American people.
You can follow his travel on www.state.gov.
Jared Caplan serves as a spokesperson and deputy director of the U.S. Department of State Regional Media Hub in Dubai.