Syrian opposition faces uphill battle

Syrian opposition faces uphill battle

Syrian opposition faces uphill battle

British Foreign Secretary Hague hails the unity deal as a very important step. EPA photo

The newly formed Syrian opposition faces an uphill battle as Arab and European leaders urged the body to seek broader support in order to gain full recognition.

The Gulf Cooperation Council said its six members recognized the National Coalition as “the Syrian people’s legitimate representative,” and the Arab League also gave its backing.

The 22-member Arab League, however, stopped short of granting the bloc full recognition, stating only that it saw the alliance as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition.”

It called on the rest of the opposition to join and urged regional and international groups to recognize it as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people’s aspirations.

EU foreign ministers meeting at the League’s headquarters in Cairo took a similar stance, welcoming but declining to recognize the alliance while calling on it to bring in more regime opponents. “It is a very important milestone and a very big step towards [recognition],” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. The Europeans wanted to ensure the deal was implemented and to see that the coalition is “as close a representation as possible of opposition groups and all communities in Syria,” he said.
The bloc’s leader Moaz al-Khatib said he hopes the body will get European recognition and financial support to allow it to act as a government and acquire arms.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also offered backing for the coalition. “Now they are united, it’s very important... France will support them,” Fabius said, urging world powers to recognize the bloc. However, he refrained from any formal recognition of the body.

The French defense minister also said it was premature to give the new body full recognition, saying it needed to unite armed rebel factions within Syria under its umbrella.