Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels, says diplomat
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to stop bloodshed by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, a top Arab diplomat said on Saturday.
"Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria," he added saying further "details will follow at a later time."
The announcement came two days after the kingdom said it had shut down its embassy in Syria and withdrawn all its staff.
Riyadh has taken a strong stance against the escalating bloodshed and, along with its five Gulf Cooperation Council partners, expelled Syrian envoys last month and withdrew their own over the "mass slaughter" of civilians.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal publicly defended the right of the Syrian opposition to arm itself.
"It is the right of the Syrians to arm themselves in order to defend themselves. Weapons used to target homes are used in wars with enemies," he said.
King Abdullah had also previously called for "critical measures" to be taken on Syria, warning of an impending "humanitarian disaster."
Last week, Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud told AFP Saudi Arabia and Qatar were backing "armed terrorist gangs" operating in the country and are therefore responsible for the resulting bloodshed.
"Some of the countries backing armed terrorist gangs, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are accomplices to the terrorism targeting the Syrian people ... and bear responsibility for the bloodletting," he said.
Those charges were renewed on Syrian state television on Saturday after two huge bomb blasts killed at least 27 people and wounded almost 100 in central Damascus.
"Saudi Arabia is sending us terrorists," a resident of the devastated areas said on television.
"These are the friends ... of the Istanbul council," said another, referring to the opposition Syrian National Council set up in the Turkish city last August.
At least 9,100 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the uprising against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There was no official reaction to the statement from the Saudi capital, but Jordan flatly rejected the report.
"Jordan categorically denies the report," government spokesman and information minister Rakan Majali told AFP.
"This is completely baseless. Jordan has not discussed this issue with any parties or brought it up at all," he said without elaborating, while adding that an official statement would be issued later on Saturday.