US recognises Syrian opposition offices

May 06, 2014 - 4:56:36 am
Civilians search for survivors at a site hit by an air strike by forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo, yesterday.

WASHINGTON: In a boost to the Syrian opposition, Washington has recognised its offices in the United States as diplomatic missions, US officials said yesterday, as the movement’s chief prepares for high-level talks here.

Ahead of the first official visit by the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, the move aims “to empower the Syrian moderate opposition,” a senior US administration figure told reporters. Washington, which is already the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to Syrian people caught in the three-year conflict, is boosting its non-lethal support and speeding up military deliveries to what it sees as moderate rebels, those fighting both regime forces and the militant groups flooding onto the battlefield.

“This is an important step in the path towards a new Syria, its recognition on the international stage, and its relations with Syrian nationals in the US,” Jarba said, as his delegation began arriving in Washington.

He welcomed the move as “a diplomatic blow against” the legitimacy of President Bashar Al Assad “and demonstrates how far the opposition has progressed.”

Jarba will be accompanied on his eight-day trip to the United States by the new chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Brigadier General Abdelilah Al Bashir, his office said last week.

“He will meet US officials to discuss the supply of sophisticated weapons to the FSA to enable it to change the balance on the ground,” his office said. US officials on a conference call with reporters refused to be drawn on the type of non-lethal aid or weapons being supplied by Washington. But the senior official acknowledged that there was “an asymmetry militarily” between the opposition rebels and the regime of President Bashar Al Assad they are fighting to overthrow.

The move to recognise the Syrian Opposition Coalition offices, which will not give the staff diplomatic immunity, comes after a peace process known as Geneva II collapsed in February amid bitter recriminations.

The US along with many EU allies recognised the Syrian coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in late 2012. Washington in March shuttered the Syrian embassy in the US capital, prompting an angry response from Damascus.AFP

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