France, the United Kingdom and Bulgaria are among individual European Union countries that have added their statements to the EU’s collective voice welcoming the formation in Doha on November 11 of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
But while the Syrian unified opposition group wants support translated into concrete means, reportedly including financial and military support against the Bashar al-Assad government, it is also clear that the EU and others wants to see the opposition playing its part in a cessation of hostilities and a transition to a Syria that is democratic, inclusive and that undergoes a process of reconciliation along with accountability of those responsible for the large-scale bloodshed.
“Bulgaria welcomes the establishment of the national coalition of Syrian opposition forces at the meeting in Doha,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said on November 13.
“This is the result of the efforts of all representative components of the Syrian opposition to achieve unity, to put an end to the bloody regime of Bashar Assad. The establishment of the coalition will also enable better co-ordination with the international community, especially in resolving the most pressing humanitarian issues. We believe that this important step will catalyze all the efforts, leading to an end to the bloodshed in Syria and the achieving of a political solution to the crisis,” Mladenov said.
At a November 14 meeting of EU and Arab League foreign ministers, Mladenov said that the key to stopping the bloody conflict had several dimensions.
“Assad and the circle around him have no place in the transition of Syria – they must withdraw from office.
“It is essential to have a transitional government that includes representatives of the opposition and the regime who are not responsible for the violence. Then a genuine process of reconciliation in society can begin, with accountability of those responsible for the violence as part of this process. First and foremost is a cessation of violence by all parties,” Mladenov said, speaking in support of the initiatives by the Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League, Laktar Brahimi.
The formation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces in Doha is an important step and the beginning of an irreversible process of consolidation of the Syrian opposition, which must remain open to all members of the Syrian society, Mladenov said. The Arab League and the EU can help the coalition to become a single political platform that is based on the principles of tolerance, mutual respect and national reconciliation, he said.
On November 13, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement “warmly welcoming” the formation of the group by the Syrian opposition representatives.
“The EU has continuously called for the Syrian opposition to form an inclusive and representative common platform and thanks Qatar and the League of Arab States for their
continued efforts,” Ashton said.
“I also congratulate Sheikh Mouaz Al-Khatib for (sic) his election as the president of this new coalition. Mr Al-Khatib is known for being a true Syrian national figure committed to a new Syria, which includes all components of Syrian society. I wish President AL-Khatib and the newly elected Vice Presidents Riad Seif and Souhair Al-Atassi all the best in this immensely challenging task,” she said
“I look forward to this new coalition becoming fully functional and inclusive, subscribing to the principles of human rights and democracy. The EU remains committed to pursuing a Syrian-led political transition that would meet the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people,” Ashton said.
The Arab League welcomed the formation of a new Syrian opposition group, but stopped short of giving it full recognition as the representative of the Syrian people, the Voice of America said. The League, meeting in Egypt, urged regional and international groups to recognize the new coalition.
On November 12, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council became the first to formally recognise the newly united opposition group.
Anti-Assad figures had struggled to achieve unity under pressure from US diplomats and officials from Qatar. The opposition members say they will not engage in dialogue with Mr. Assad’s government.
French officials have expressed their support for the new united Syrian opposition, but say it is too early to formally recognise the group, VOA said on November 13.
French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on November 13 that the group’s formation is a “significant” step, but that the coalition does not yet constitute a provisional government the international community can recognise.
The BBC reported that in Cairo, UK foreign secretary William Hague said that he wanted to “see the Syrian opposition by inclusive” and “have support inside Syria”.
“If they have this, yes, we will then recognise them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he said.
On November 11, the US state department in Washington said that the the US congratulates the representatives of the Syrian people on the formation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
“We look forward to supporting the National Coalition as it charts a course toward the end of Assad’s bloody rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future that all the people ofSyriadeserve. We will work with the National Coalition to ensure that our humanitarian and non-lethal assistance serves the needs of the Syrian people,” the US state department said.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement on November 13 calling on the new coalition to send a “clear message” to opposition fighters that they must adhere to human rights law. The rights group also urged those financing the opposition or providing weapons to express the same expectations.
(Photo: Zaid El-Hoiydi)