UK, EU recognize new Syria opposition group
LONDON / DAMASCUS
AFP photoThe European Union and the United Kingdom joined France and Turkey yesterday in recognizing the newly-formed Syrian National Coalition as the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people, as armed rebels on the ground intensify their fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“It is strongly in the interests of Syria, of the wider region, and of the United Kingdom that we support them and deny space to extremist groups,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament yesterday, according to Reuters.
“Her Majesty’s government has decided to recognize the National Coalition of the Syrian revolution and opposition forces as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he said.
Hague, who met leaders of the Syrian National Coalition in London on Nov. 16, said in a statement to Parliament that he had asked the group to appoint a political representative.
Hague told Parliament that no decision had been taken to supply arms to the Syrian rebels. The EU currently has an arms embargo on Syria.
Hague’s statement came a day after the EU said it considered the group “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people.
Rebels ‘establishes’ security service
“The EU considers them legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people. This agreement represents a major step towards the necessary unity of the Syrian opposition,” said the EU statement. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that all his EU counterparts had expressed “much sympathy vis-a-vis the coalition.”
“I think we will invite the Coalition leaders to our next meeting [in December] to allow them to talk to all of the foreign ministers, which will be highly symbolic,” Fabius said.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels announced yesterday the creation of a security service to “defend the Syrian revolution,” Agence France-Presse reported. Its objective is “to be a powerful security shield to protect the sons of the revolution from attacks, arrests and killings,” and to hunt down members of the opposition who have committed abuses, according to a video statement by the rebels.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Nov. 20 that he feared the militarization of the conflict in Syria could turn the country into a “regional battleground.”
On the ground, fresh fighting between Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebels erupted yesterday in the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, where at least 29 people have died over the past 24 hours, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Elsewhere in northern Syria, rebels attacked the Sheikh Suleiman air defense battalion, west of Aleppo city, the Observatory said. Two mortar rounds struck Syria’s Information Ministry building in the capital of Damascus yesterday, causing some damage but no casualties, according to Syrian state TV, who blamed “terrorists” for the attack, referring to the rebels.