Syrian rebels get huge int’l recognition boost

Syrian rebels get huge int’l recognition boost

Syrian rebels get huge int’l recognition boost

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) talks with the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al Thani, during the conference in Marrakesh. EPA photo

The Syrian rebels have received a huge international recognition boost, with Arab and Western states recognizing the National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of Syrians.

“Today, full recognition has been given to the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani told a news conference after the meeting hosted by his government in the southern city of Marrakesh. The talks brought together representatives from 130 countries, including around 60 ministers, the Syrian opposition and international organizations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the conference “extraordinary progress.” He noted that the European Union was now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every three months rather than annually, in order to be more flexible as the situation on the ground changes. British Foreign Secretary William Hague also described the growing recognition of the National Coalition as “real progress.”

Nevertheless, Syrian opposition spokesman Walid al-Bunni called for “real support” and not just recognition, speaking at the conference. The Syrian National Coalition, formed in November during a conference in Doha, Qatar, has been calling for increased international support, including military material.

“The important thing is to channel more assistance through them, in our case... non-lethal assistance ... and then, of course, we need more humanitarian aid,” Hague said. Similarly, Fabius said France was not yet ready to supply weapons to Syrian insurgents fighting to oust al-Assad, despite the setting up of a new rebel military council.

In its communiqué, the Friends of Syria again called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down, and stressed that his regime would not escape punishment for violations of international law. It also warned Damascus against using chemical weapons, saying this “would draw a serious response from the international community.”

Russia surprised

The Marrakesh meeting came just a day after U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, following a similar move by the European Union.

The head of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz al-Khatib also has been invited for talks in Washington following U.S. recognition of the opposition bloc, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said yesterday.

Russia said it was surprised by Obama’s recognition, saying Washington was now betting on an armed victory by rebels in the conflict. “I was somewhat surprised to find out [about the recognition announcement] … The U.S. has decided to place all its bets on an armed victory of the National Coalition,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Timeline needed, FM says

MARRAKESH – Anatolian News Agency

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called on the Friends of Syria group meeting in Marrakesh to decide on a timeline for a solution to the Syrian crisis, adding that there is no time left for diplomatic solutions.

“We do not have time to waste on diplomatic efforts in the meetings. While continuing to call on the U.N. Security Council to accomplish its responsibilities, we have to decide on a timeline in order to get a meaningful decision from the Council,” he said. “The first step is the recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he said. “If we do not act now, not only us, but regional and global security will be under threat,” Davutoğlu said.