Japan to extend nonmilitary aid to Syria's rebel-held areas

Japan will extend nonmilitary aid to people in rebel-held areas in Syria in cooperation with rebel aid groups and nongovernmental organizations, the government said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering unveiling the plan at a meeting next Monday and Tuesday of leaders from the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries in Northern Ireland, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

"We think the aid needs to be extended in coordination and cooperation with aid groups of the opposition, which effectively controls the areas in need, and with NGOs," Suga said, adding that such aid would be limited to a field where goods would not be converted to military purposes.

Syria remains gripped by more than two years of fighting between government and rebel forces, and it has become urgent to extend aid to people in areas in which the Syrian government or international organizations are unable to provide assistance, officials said.

The envisioned aid to rebel-held areas will be limited to the health field, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement, noting that other kinds of aid would be considered after ascertaining needs on the ground.

Japan has extended about $80 million in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and displaced people in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs.