France: 100 states back Syria coalition

2012-12-12 18:55

Marrakesh - More than 100 countries on Wednesday recognised a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces battling Bashar Assad and possibly even military aid, France's foreign minister said.

The formation of the Syrian National Coalition appears to be the step the international community has been waiting for to extend deeper assistance to the opposition, which before had been criticised for not being sufficiently organised or representative.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the "Friends of the Syrian People" conference meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco "extraordinary progress". He noted that the European Union is now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every 3 months rather than annually to give them more flexibility as the situation on the ground changes.

"We want to have the ability to continue or to change our attitude on this point - the fact that the coalition, which is asking for the right to defend itself - is now being recognised by a hundred countries, yesterday (Tuesday) the US and first France, I think this is a very important point."

The conference comes hours after President Barack Obama declared its new coalition was the "legitimate representative" of its country's people.

At the conference, Syrian opposition spokesperson Walid al-Bunni called for "real support" and not just recognition. The Syrian National Coalition, formed in November during a conference in Doha, Qatar, has been calling for increased international support, including military material.

"We need not only bread to help our people," opposition member Saleem Abdul Aziz al Meslet told The Associated Press. "We need support for our Syrian army - we need to speed up things and get rid of this regime."

Some of that support appeared to be forthcoming with Saudi Arabia announcing a $100m aid package at the conference.

Western countries have been reluctant to send arms to Syria, not least because of their experience in Libya where the West actively backed one side in a civil war in a country that later became awash in militant groups.

Battlefield victories

There has been a noticeable hardening of the Western rhetoric though as the war in Syria has ground on for nearly 2 years killing more than 40 000 people according to estimates by rights groups and as the rebels score new battlefield victories, there are fears that Assad may turn to his chemical weapons arsenal.

"In the United Kingdom, we do not rule out any option to save lives," warned British Foreign Secretary William Hague in his speech at the conference.

"We do not know how long the conflict in Syria will last, but uniting the international community around these efforts, helping the national coalition to win the confidence of the Syrian people, planning for a peaceful future for the country and protecting the victims of the conflict on whom that future will rest is surely the right way to end the conflict and stop the appalling loss of life."

John Wilks, the British special representative to the Syrian opposition, said that Wednesday's event was neither a donor conference nor a military aid event, but rather an effort to set up opposition institutions so that they could effectively use future aid in a credible manner to administer the areas they control.

"The key point is that they are setting up institutions and money is coming, so it's a better situation than three months ago - they are happy, we are happy," he said before the conference began.

In her speech at the conference on the severe humanitarian needs of Syria's people, coalition vice president Suheir Attasi said that they have now created the necessary relief structures on the ground to receive aid, as had been requested by the international community.


Obama's announcement follows his administration's blacklisting of a militant Syrian rebel group with links to al-Qaeda. That step is aimed at blunting the influence of extremists.

Fabius, the French minister, said there were differences of opinion among participants over the US move, with a number of Arab countries objecting to the terrorist label and the new Syrian opposition leader pointing out that it was hard to call a group making an important contribution to the fight, terrorists.

The new president of the coalition, Mouaz Khatib, did however condemn "all forms of extremism" in his conference speech, a veiled reference to the jihadi groups operating in the country and he specifically called for reconciliation with the country's Alawite minority from which Assad comes, calling on them to fight with the opposition.

"We call on them to accept the extended hand and work together against the violence of the regime," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday the recognition contradicted earlier international agreements that foresee the "commencement of an all-Syria dialogue" that would include all sides of the conflict, in which more than 40 000 people have died so far.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 20:38

    . GREAT STUFF !!! Heard that assad is packing his bags, Ten of them !!!, One with clothes, and nine with cash ( he borrowed from the Syrian people ) !!!!

  • fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-13 02:05

    So you just get together a few exiles who dont agree with each other and say, here you are the government. The SNC is a bunch of aspirational ex-pats who have no right to power in Syria. "We, the fighting squads of Aleppo city and province, unanimously reject the conspiratorial project called the National Coalition and announce our consensus to establish an Islamic state" in Syria, a spokesperson announced in the video. Al-Nusra Front Fake, foreign-sponsored revolutions will never yield anything good!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-13 05:09

      Mrs mcoshi, But you said the same with Libya !!!!!! After 30 years of tyranny by a madman, the Libyans are well on their way to have a government elected by the majority, and with the protection and respect for the minorites. You can use the most beautiful words, and phrase them in the most amazing sentences, and try to proof the contrary, but ultimately ANYONE in this world wants the same : Decent and fair people to rule them, that are accountable to them, and if the majority believes they don't do a good job, to send them away. If you voted for the first time in 1994, you must have had a butterfly in your stumach, that at long last you were no longer be treated like a child, nor a second class citizen. Well, let me aasure you, the Libyans and the Syrians feel the same. Your friends, the Russains and the Iranians are backing the wrong side, for their own self interests, and yes, you like it or not, the US, is on the right side of history!! you can still change your mind, nobody will be cross with you !! Leave these half baked lunatics in their selfish little anti Western world.. They are LOSERS !!! And congratulations on your marraige. I understand that your ex, just could no longer take this claptrap of yours...... 'the bastard' THanks for the cake !!

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-13 07:36

      Applying any sort of logic to a post by you is like trying to perform brain surgery or trying to find the meaning of life. I'm deeply concerned for you to be honest. Look at that, just wasted another 60 seconds of life. Will I never learn?

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