Arabs recognise Syrian rebel bloc

November 13, 2012 - 5:50:32 am

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani arriving for Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting on Syria at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo yesterday.

CAIRO: The Arab League yesterday recognised a newly formed Syrian opposition bloc as “legitimate,” urging more opposition groups to join the coalition.

Arab foreign ministers in a statement after talks called the National Council, formed in Doha on Sunday, “the legitimate representative and main interlocutor with the Arab League”.

“It is the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition,” Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, who heads the Arab League group for Syria, told reporters. 

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al Arabi and the UN-Arab envoy to Syria Lakhdar Al Brahimi were present.

The top diplomats called on “the rest of the opposition to join this national coalition so that it brings together all segments of the Syrian people”. They also urged “regional and international groups to recognise (the bloc) as a national representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

They granted the coalition the status of an observer. The ministers called on the UN Security Council to approve a ceasefire resolution in line with Chapter VII of the UN charter. They assigned the chairman of the Arab League Syria committee and the Arab League Secretary General to head to the UN Security Council to seek an urgent action regarding Syria. 

In a sign of divisions among Arab states, Iraq and Algeria expressed reservations about the statement, an Arab League official said.

The coalition’s newly installed leader, Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib made a concerted effort to address the sectarian and ethnic acrimony underlying 20 months of civil war that has killed 38,000 people. “We demand freedom for every Sunni, Alawi, Ismaili, Christian, Druze, Assyrian ... and rights for all parts of the harmonious Syrian people,” he said, calling on Syrian soldiers to desert and all sects to unite. 

Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs H E Khaled Al Attiya said recognition would remove any obstacles to the opposition’s securing arms for rebel fighters on the ground. 

“When they get the legitimacy from the international arena they can go and contract whatever they want themselves, because they would be recognised as full legitimate government whether in exile or whether inside Syria,” he said in an interview to be aired on Al Jazeera television.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council, earlier in the day, said that its six member states have decided to recognise the newly formed National Coalition of the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s move came a year to the day after the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership. The GCC members — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — became the first to recognise the opposition coalition.

“The states of the council announce recognising the National Coalition for the Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition... as the legitimate representative of the brotherly Syrian people,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al Zayani said. 

The statement said the GCC was “looking forward to Arab states and the international community recognising the coalition”. “Council states will provide support to this new entity, in order to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people, in hope that this (coalition) will be a step towards a quick political transfer of power,” Zayani said.

The GCC chief also said he hoped that the formation of the new coalition “would lead to ending the bloodshed, protect the territorial unity of Syria, and to hold a general national congress to pave the way to build a state ruled by law and open to all its citizens without exceptions or discrimination”.   Agencies