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11 countries pledge to ramp up aid to Syrian rebels amid bloody conflict

Maurizio Gambarini / EPA

Secretary of State John Kerry takes part in the foreign ministers meeting of the Syria contact group in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.

Secretary of State John Kerry appealed Saturday for a resolution to the bloody war in Syria, warning on a trip to Qatar that continued violence could plunge the Middle East into turbulent sectarian conflict.

Kerry met in the Qatari capital of Doha with officials from 10 Arab and European nations to coordinate assistance to the rebels fighting to force Syrian President Bashar Assad out of office. The two-year civil war has left 93,000 dead.

The nations in attendance all pledged to ramp up aid to the anti-government rebels, Kerry said.

“What is clear is that every country committed today to step up what it is doing in direct response to what has happened on the ground,” Kerry said.

Nine out of the eleven countries in attendance have elected to provide “practical support to the opposition in Syria through the military council,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said, suggesting that those nine countries will supply various types of arms to opposition forces.

Although Kerry did not provide specifics on the extent to which the Obama administration plans to aid the rebels, he said the assistance would give them an advantage on the battlefield, where Assad’s regime and pro-government forces have won crucial victories.

Ministers from other participating nations condemned the intervention of Hezbollah militias and fighters from Iran and Iraq in Syria, who have come to Assad's regime's aid in cities like Qusayr, Aleppo and Ghouta.

Kerry said that the urgency of the U.S. response is partly a product of the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict.

"What is different is that this is now in response to what Iran and Hezbollah are doing," Kerry said.

The Saturday summit marked Kerry’s first meeting with other foreign ministers since President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would deliver lethal weapons to the rebels amid outcry that the arms could be appropriated by Islamic extremists in Syria.

Kerry’s meeting with his counterparts in Doha is the first leg of a seven-nation trip through the Mideast and Asia, where he is slated to address a range of vexing foreign policy issues, from the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians to the proposed peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.