Patriots need to shield rebel zones: SNC to US

Patriots need to shield rebel zones: SNC to US

Patriots need to shield rebel zones: SNC to US

Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) talks with Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib during Arab League meeting in Doha. Davutoğlu supported al-Khatib’s demand of taking Syria’s seat at the United Nations. AA photo

Syrian opposition leader, taking Syria’s seat at an Arab summit for the first time yesterday, said the United States should use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from President Bashar al-Assad’s airpower.

Moaz al-Khatib said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot surface-to-air missiles. Al-Khatib said the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict in Syria, blaming al-Assad’s government for what he called its “refusal to solve the crisis.”

“I have asked Mr. Kerry to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to study the subject,” al-Khatib said, referring to NATO Patriot missile batteries. “We are still waiting for a decision from NATO to protect people’s lives, not to fight but to protect lives,” he said. NATO said it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria.

“NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria,” a NATO official said. Three NATO countries, the U.S., Netherlands, and Germany, have sent Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to Turkey to protect its cities from possible attack from Syria. The top U.S. military commander in Europe, Adm. James Stavridis, said last week that several NATO countries are working on contingency plans for possible military action to end the two-year civil war in Syria.

Al-Khatib took over Syria’s vacant chair at the Arab League summit in Doha, despite announcing on March 24 that he would step down as leader of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Al-Khatib, a former imam at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, had told Al-Jazeera television before the summit that his main reason for quitting was frustration with the world’s inaction. Damascus slammed the Syrian opposition for its “theft” of the country’s Arab League seat, calling it a “legal, political and moral crime.” 

UN seat demand

“This theft that the sheikhdom of Qatar and other collaborator, treacherous, backward Arab regimes have committed by handing the Doha-sponsored Coalition the Syrian state’s membership ... is a legal, political and moral crime,” the Tishreen newspaper wrote. 

The emir of Qatar, a strong supporter of the struggle to topple al-Assad, asked his fellow-Arab leaders to invite the coalition delegation to represent Syria formally at the summit, despite the internal divisions plaguing the opposition. Al-Khatib also demanded that he be allowed to represent Syria at the United Nations, while insisting that Syria’s future should not be determined by foreign powers. “We demand ... the seat of Syria at the United Nations and at other international organizations … They ask who will rule Syria. The people of Syria will decide, not any other state in this world,” al-Khatib said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also supported al-Khatib’s decision and said the international actors must start working for the interim government to get its place at the U.N.

The Arab League suspended Syria in November 2011 in protest at its use of violence against civilians to quell dissent.