May 2, 2015 / 1:42 PM / in 4 years

Turkey, U.S. to start train-and-equip plan for Syria rebels May 9 – Turkey

Residents walk amidst debris at a site damaged by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's president Bashar Al-Assad al-Sukkari neighborhood of Aleppo, May 1, 2015. REUTERS/Hosam Katan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The latest U.S.-led plan to train and arm a Syrian opposition force will start in Turkey on May 9, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a Turkish newspaper.

The programme to train and arm a force that is expected to eventually total more than 15,000 troops has been mired in delays as many details of the plan, such as whether or how Washington would come to their aid on the battlefield, remain unclear. A rebel commander last month told Reuters he expected the training to start in July.

On Friday Cavusoglu told Turkish daily Sabah that the U.S. and Turkey share the view of a Syria without President Bashar Assad.

“There isn’t any political or other issue. At first, 300 people will be trained, followed by the next 300 and, at the end of the year, the number of trained and equipped fighters will reach 2,000,” he said.

Rebel groups have already been receiving weapons and training from a CIA-led programme that Washington has never acknowledged. The new programme is under the direction of the Defense Department.

In late March Cavusoglu blamed the “minor delay” in the programme on the “U.S. (geographic) distance”.

Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; editing by Ralph Boulton

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