CAIRO, Nov 13, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, Nov 13, 2012 (AFP)
European Union foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday welcomed a newly formed Syrian opposition bloc but declined to recognise the alliance, instead urging it to bring in more regime dissenters.
After four days of talks in the Qatari capital Doha, Syrian opposition groups agreed on Sunday to unite under the banner of the National Coalition headed by moderate Muslim cleric Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
“It is a very important milestone and a very big step towards (recognition),” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters on the sidelines of an EU-Arab League meeting.
“We do now want to see the details of the agreement made in Doha implemented, and we want to see in practice that the Syrian opposition or the coalition now being assembled is as inclusive as possible of opposition groups and all communities in Syria,” said Hague.
“We want to see that they have support inside Syria. That is a very crucial consideration. If they do all these things, well then, yes, we will be able to recognise them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also offered backing for the National Coalition.
“Now they are united, it’s very important… France will support them,” Fabius told reporters.
The French minister met with both Khatib and George Sabra, the head of the Syrian National Council, a powerful opposition grouping which finally agreed to join the wider, more representative bloc.
Fabius said Paris had “always been at the forefront” of support for the Syrian opposition which he said had “reached a very important step” by uniting, but refrained from any formal recognition of the body.
Ashton welcomed the Doha agreement but warned of a spillover of the conflict which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says has killed more than 37,000 since it broke out in March 2011.
“I want to welcome the work done in Doha to build and bring together the opposition, to be inclusive of the people in Syria to be determined in the offer they make to the people,” Ashton told delegates.
“But the tragedy of Syria is a tragedy that affects not just that country but the whole region,” she said. “Countries represented here know the challenges of refugees… the threat of the overspill of violence.”
The 22-member Arab League on Monday recognised the National Coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition”.
The Gulf Cooperation Council has gone further than the Arab League, saying on Monday its six member states had decided to recognise the coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people”.