The US government has not ruled out the possibility of meeting al-Qaeda-linked insurgent groups fighting against the Syrian government.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Monday that US officials might enter negotiations with the al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic Front, which seeks to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front,” Harf told reporters.
However, she refused to comment on reports that US officials were preparing to meet this week in Turkey with the militant group, saying she had “nothing to announce at this time.”
Earlier this month, the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents seized US supplies from another rival group, the so-called Free Syrian Army, when they overran the northern headquarters and two warehouses belonging to the US-backed group near Turkey’s border.
Following reports that the Islamic Front seized warehouses of US supplies, the Obama administration suspended “all further deliveries of non-lethal” supplies into northern Syria.
On Monday, Harf said any first meeting between US officials and the Islamic Front would have to focus on the return of the US supplies.
“If at some point we discuss this with the Islamic Front, we would expect that non-lethal assistant be returned,” she said.
Harf also referred to the Islamic Front as “an alliance of prominent Islamic groups in the Syrian opposition” and said Washington could engage with the al-Qaeda-linked group “because they’re not designated terrorists.”
The possible meeting between US officials and the Islamic Front comes as clashes intensify among rival militant groups in the Arab country. The US and some of its regional allies have been providing financial and military support to the militants.