The statement, Kerry said, brings “everybody on the same page with respect to how assistance will be provided.”
The agreement, if it holds, would mark a significant effort to stem the escalating fighting power and influence of al-Qaeda-linked groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, that have joined the two-year effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad’s political opponents have welcomed them to the fight, arguing that getting rid of Assad and stopping the carnage that has left more than 70,000 dead and led nearly 5 million to flee their homes was more immediately important than ensuring that Islamic extremists were barred from participating.
The dispute over which rebel factions to aid, what kind of assistance to provide and what to demand in return was matched by divisions within the political opposition itself, where different factions — supported by different foreign governments — were vying for power and control over Syria’s future.
In a separate statement, the political Syrian Opposition Coalition acknowledged “that there are radical/extremist elements in Syria which follow an agenda of their own. We firmly reject and condemn all forms of terrorism and any extremist ideology.”
The meeting, designed to forge greater unity within the coalition, had become an extended argument Saturday night about what one official called the “competing agendas” among the supporters. Some countries, including Qatar and Turkey, favor ongoing dominance of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood within the coalition, and have been less concerned than others that military assistance is flowing to Islamist extremists such as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about the sensitive talks.
Among the many subdivisions is that, while Saudi Arabia has been at odds with Qatar over the latter’s approval of the Muslim brotherhood, the Saudis have been less strident than many in the West over aid to the extremists. The Saudis and Qatar are the two countries known to be supplying lethal weaponry to the opposition.
Western governments, and some in the Middle East, who have been leery of aiding the coalition until moderates are more clearly in a dominant position, have argued that the donor group needs to spend more energy pushing opposition political and military leaders to unify their message and activities, including the provision of services to beleaguered populations in rebel-controlled areas, and outreach to minority groups who continue to side with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.