France recognised the newly formed Opposition National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people today, the first Western country to do so, as fighting raged across the country.
“I announce that France recognises the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional Government of a democratic Syria, allowing an end to the Bashar al-Assad regime,” President Francois Hollande told a press conference.
Meanwhile, the coalition’s chief called on world powers to arm Assad’s foes, as Arab and EU leaders urged his coalition to seek broader support inside the war-torn country.
The French move came 24 hours after the coalition was recognised by the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.
Britain has said it wants to see more evidence that the opposition grouping has strong support inside Syria before formally recognising it as effectively a Government in exile.
The US has declared its backing for the coalition, while Damascus ally Moscow has urged the Opposition to drop its refusal to negotiate with the Assad regime.
The diverse forces involved in the coalition agreed on Sunday to unify their fighting forces under a supreme military council and set up a national judicial commission for rebel-held areas in Syria.
They plan to form a provisional Government once the coalition has been widely recognised internationally.
Earlier, National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib called in Cairo for the rebels to be provided with
“specialised weapons” as they desperately needed arms to “cut short the suffering of the Syrians and their bloodshed.”
Hollande said the question of arming the rebels, hitherto opposed by Paris, would have to be reviewed.
“This question will have to be necessarily reviewed not only in France but in all countries which will recognise this Government,” he said.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Cairo welcomed the bloc and urged it to bring in more regime dissenters, with Khatib responding that “it is the strongest coalition and represents Syria internally.”
The 22-member Arab League has stopped short of granting the bloc full recognition, stating only that it saw the alliance as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian Opposition”.
Iran, meanwhile, said it will bring parties to the Syrian conflict to Tehran on Sunday to participate in a “national dialogue.”
New Syria body ‘a legitimate representative’: US
Washington, Nov 14 The US said today the newly formed opposition National Coalition was “a legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, but stopped short of recognising it as a Government-in-exile.
“We now have a structure in place that can prepare for a political transition, but... we’re looking for it to still establish the types of technical committees that will allow us to make sure our assistance gets to the right places,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.