President Obama will discuss how to help Syria find ways to end its civil war during the G8 conference in Northern Ireland next week, the White House said on Friday.
A day earlier, the White House announced it would provide more military support to Syrian opposition forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad after it said it had clearly established evidence of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor, said.
“The decisions that we've made are already finalized,” he said. “So the President's decision to increase support for the Syrian opposition including the Supreme Military Council, the SMC, which is again the principle fighting force on the ground that we've been working with - those are decisions that he's made over the course of the last several weeks particularly as our assessment of chemical weapons use firmed up and as we saw deteriorating situation in general.”
Rhodes said that the U.S. has steadily built relationships in Syria over the last six months that gives the U.S. “greater certainty not just that we can get stuff into the country but also that we can put it in the right hands so that it's not falling into the hands of extremists.”
Earlier Friday, a top Russian lawmaker accused the Obama administration of making up evidence that Assad used chemical weapons in Syria. The comments, according to some, seem to indicate that Russia isn’t budging on the subject – a move that could derail a U.S.-Russian last-ditch peace conference scheduled for next month.
Rhodes said Friday Russia that doesn’t want to see a downward spiral.
“They don't want to see a chaotic and unstable situation in the region,” he said. “They don't want to see extremist elements gaining a foothold in Syria. And the point that we've made to Russia is that that current course in which Assad is not being appropriately pressured to step down from power from those who continue to support him in the international community is bringing about those very outcomes. So it's in Russia's interest to join us in applying pressure on Bashar Al Assad to come to the table in a way that relinquishes his power and his standing in Syria.”