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The New Arab

Syrian government wants Trump to cut ties with rebels

Donald Trump has previously attacked Obama's policy in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2016

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Newly-elected Donald Trump has not yet announced any change to Middle East policy but Syria's Foreign Minister has urged the new administration to end its support for opposition fighters.
The Syrian government wants US President-elect Donald Trump to end support for armed rebel groups.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday said he also hopes the new president will curb regional powers who back the Syrian opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

"What we want from the new administration is not just to stop support (for armed groups)... but to curb those regional powers that are supporting those groups... we have to wait," Moaellem said during a televised news conference in Damascus.

President-elect Trump has not yet announced any change to US policy in the Middle East or appointed a Secretary of State.

However he has previously hinted at a warming of ties with Russia, which is fighting for President Bashar al-Assad's government, in a move unlikely to bode well for rebels.

Trump also spent his presidential campaign attacking the Obama administration's policy of supporting moderate Syrian rebel groups fighting Assad and pledged to focus on efforts to fight the Islamic State group (IS).

"My attitude was you're fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria," Trump said following his election, using another acronym for IS.

"Now we're backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are," he added.

Earlier this year, the US revamped a train-and-equip programme for rebels after a previous attempt failed.

The new initiative aimed to work with a set number of members from each opposition group instead of entire rebel units fighting on the front lines as was the case with the previous effort.

The Pentagon's initial $500 million project to train "moderate" opposition members was widely criticised when the US admitted its failure to recruit adequate numbers and many objecting to fight only IS, and not Syrian government troops.

A group trained by the US was also caught handing over ammunition and other gear to Syria's al-Qaeda franchise, the Nusra Front.

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