100 countries back new Syrian opposition coalition

1 / 2
2 / 2
Updated 13 December 2012
0

100 countries back new Syrian opposition coalition

MARRAKECH, Morocco: More than 100 countries on Wednesday recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater humanitarian assistance to the forces battling Bashar Assad and possibly even military aid.
The opposition has been under intense international pressure to create a more organized and representative body to channel any aid extended by foreign countries and so it formed the Syrian National Coalition in Doha, Qatar, in November that was widely applauded at a conference in Morocco.
The world’s recognition of the Libyan opposition gave it a huge boost in the battle against Muammar Qaddafi last year, though that was later backed by Western airstrikes. Military intervention does not appear to be in the cards for Syria, where the government has the powerful backing of Russia, China and Iran.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the “Friends of the Syrian People” conference meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, “extraordinary progress.” He noted that the European Union is now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every three months, rather than annually, to be more flexible 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 recognized by a hundred countries — yesterday the US and first France — I think this is a very important point.”
The conference’s final statement said Assad, Syria’s president, has lost all legitimacy but stopped short of calling for him to step down, something attending ministers did say individually. The statement also warned that any use of chemical weapons “would draw a serious response” from the international community.
“I believe that of all the meetings we have had so far for the friends of Syria, this will turn out to be the most significant,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the final news conference.
The Syrian military’s recent movement of chemical weapons the United States to warn Assad that he would be “held accountable” if his forces used them against the rebels.
In Marrakech, conference members announced new humanitarian assistance for Syrians, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia and a fund to be managed by Germany and the United Arab Emirates for the reconstruction of the country after Assad falls.
Western countries have been reluctant to send arms to Syria, however. That’s not the 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.
Syrian opposition members have repeatedly asked for increased military assistance.
“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.”
Part of the problem, however, is that the many of the recent battlefield successes by the rebels appear to be by groups with jihadi tendencies, like Jebhat Al-Nusra, which the US declared had ties to Al-Qaeda and put on the terrorism watch list.
The move caused a stir among the Syrian opposition.
In his speech at the conference, the newly selected president, Mouaz Al-Khatib, urged the US to “review” the designation since the group was performing a valuable service in the battle against the regime.
The West fears that Islamist fighters will come to dominate the revolt. They have been at the vanguard of the conflict, in part because of their greater fighting experience.
However, Al-Khatib did condemn “all forms of extremism” in his conference speech — a veiled reference to the jihadi groups operating in the country. He specifically called for reconciliation with the country’s Alawite minority, from which Assad comes, and urged Alawites to launch a campaign of civil disobedience against the regime.
“We call on them to accept the extended hand and work together against the violence of the regime,” he said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to attend the conference, but canceled following an illness. She was being represented by William Burns, the deputy secretary of state for the Middle East.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday the recognition of the Syrian opposition coalition contradicts earlier international agreements aimed at starting a Syria dialogue that would include all sides in the conflict.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
0

Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.