New Syrian opposition pushes for recognition

New Syrian opposition pushes for recognition

New Syrian opposition pushes for recognition

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu (L) congratulates new Syrian National Coalition head al-Khatib in a Doha meeting. REUTERS photo

The leader of Syria’s newly united opposition are headed to the Arab League headquarters in Cairo to push for diplomatic recognition, buoyed by the hard-won unity deal among the disparate factions.

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, 52, a moderate Muslim cleric who quit Syria three months ago, was to be accompanied on his visit by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, whose government hosted the marathon four-day talks that culminated the agreement.

The deal to form a new broad-based opposition structure to take the 20-month uprising forward drew a warm welcome from Turkey and Western governments that had expressed mounting frustration with the leadership divisions that have plagued the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

No excuse anymore, says FM Davutoğlu

Foreign governments no longer have any excuse to avoid supporting Syria’s opposition after dissidents broadened the opposition’s scope with a hard-won unity agreement signed yesterday in Doha, Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu said Nov. 11.

“The Friends of Syria ... should support this agreement. There is no excuse anymore,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “All those who support the rightful struggle of the Syrian people should declare clear support for this agreement and be more active.”

The United States, Britain, France and Qatar also hailed the agreement, which saw the formation of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. Al-Khatib’s deputies will be Riad Seif, a respected Syrian dissident who proposed the new opposition body, and Suhair al-Atassi, one of the few women with a leading role. Moscow gave the new coalition a cooler response, calling on it to act in the interests of Syria and not foreign powers and to reverse its rejection of any dialogue with the al-Assad regime.

Libya style recognition

The new National Coalition wants to build on that support to win the sort of diplomatic recognition that the Libyan opposition won in its successful uprising against Moamar Gadhafi last year. The Arab League suspended al-Assad’s government as part of a raft of sanctions it imposed last year and Syria’s seat in the 22-member bloc is currently vacant. Qatar, along with neighboring Saudi Arabia, has been a leading champion of the opposition and has already said it is ready to recognize a provisional government that the National Coalition plans to form.

The Qatari premier said he would press fellow Arab ministers at talks in Cairo to do the same. “We will seek a full recognition of this new body,” Sheikh Hamad said.

Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiya told Al-Jazeera television that recognition would remove any obstacles to the opposition’s securing arms for rebel fighters on the ground. “When they get the legitimacy from the international arena they can go and contract whatever they want themselves, because they would be recognized as full legitimate government whether in exile or whether inside Syria,” he said. The new opposition leader said that the coalition already had promises of weapons. “In fact there are some friends, I can’t name them, they will help us,” Khatib said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will host talks Nov. 16 to consider new ways of supporting the Syrian opposition. The meeting will host donors and coalition representatives which will consider further support to the Syrian opposition.