Paris first to recognize Syria rebels

Paris first to recognize Syria rebels

Paris first to recognize Syria rebels

France’s President Hollande addresses a news conference in Paris in which he announced the Syrian opposition is the sole and legitimate representative. ABACAPRESS photo

Turkey could soon follow France by officially recognizing the united Syrian opposition as the country’s sole legitimate representative in a move that could further strain ties between Ankara and Damascus, according to a senior diplomat.

“We already politically recognize the united national opposition. Our foreign minister went to Doha two times in three days to contribute to the unification talks of the opposition. Official recognition may also come,” a senior Turkish diplomat said yesterday. Turkey’s statement may come from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is set to address the Organization of Islamic Conference today in Djibouti.

Possible recognition of the Syrian opposition will have no direct effect on Syrian diplomatic representation in Turkey as the situation in Syria differs from Libya, where the Libyan opposition was able to seize control of certain parts of Libyan territory.

Turkey was among the countries that exerted great efforts in pushing divided Syrian groups to unite the opposition, which is now expecting more recognition and support from the international community.

France became the first Western country to say it recognized the united body as the sole, legitimate representative of the Syrian people. “I announce today that France recognizes the Syrian national coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as the future government of a democratic Syria, making it possible to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” French President François Hollande said Nov. 13, breaking ranks with European allies. The question of arming the rebels will be looked at as soon as the rebel coalition forms a transitional government, Hollande told a news conference in Paris. The United States, however, stopped short of recognizing it as the sole legitimate representative of Syrian people although it strongly supported the group.

‘Immoral position’

The French recognition received a strong reaction from Damascus, which hit out at the decision, saying: “The Doha meeting was a declaration of war. These people [the opposition] don’t want to solve the issue peacefully through the mechanisms of the U.N.,” Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Muqdad, told Agence France-Presse. “We read the Doha document and they reject any dialogue with the government.”

Reacting to France’s decision to recognize the National Coalition, he said: “Allow me to use the word, this is an immoral position. They are supporting killers, terrorists and they are encouraging the destruction of Syria.” According to a Turkish official, the recent escalation in clashes between the Syrian army and the rebels also has links to the developments in Doha, reflecting Damascus’ panic. “They were thinking that the opposition would once again fail. The unification of the opposition and its well-organized structure disappointed them,” the official said.

Another reason is the Syrian army’s fear of fully losing Aleppo, where clashes have become fiercer. “These are the last efforts of a regime which has already lost.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), Rick Barton, is visiting Turkey to meet members of the “unarmed Syrian opposition.” During his visit to Turkey, which will end on Nov. 18, Barton will also meet with Turkish officials.