France Recognizes Syria's New Opposition Coalition
France has officially recognized the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, the first Western country to do so.
President Francois Hollande told a press conference in Paris that "France recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria."
France was the first country to formally recognize Libya's transitional government as an alternative to former leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Syrian opposition groups agreed on November 11 to form a broad coalition to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad after a 20-month uprising against his regime.
Earlier on November 13, EU and Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo welcomed the formation of the coalition but stopped short of recognizing it.
Speaking in Cairo, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on the new group to demonstrate that it represents all the Syrian people.
"We are especially conscious of the terrible situation in Syria," Ashton said. "I want to welcome the work that was done in Doha to build and bring together the opposition groups, to be inclusive of the people of Syria, to be determined in the offer that they make to the people."
The EU visit comes just after the Arab League and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council recognized the newly formed National Coalition of the Syrian Powers of Revolution and Opposition as the country's "legitimate representatives."
The United States also welcomed the formation of the coalition after it was announced on November 11.
Ashton said Syria's neighbors must step up their efforts to bring a durable solution to the conflict there.
"The tragedy of Syria is the tragedy that affects not just that country but the whole region. Countries represented here know the challenges of refugees who are fleeing for their lives, the threat of the overspill of violence, the challenges to stability of the region and the concerns that causes," Ashton said.
"We have to continue and to strengthen our efforts in support of all the people of Syria."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Cairo meeting that his country would support the efforts of the opposition toward reconciliation and ending the violence.
Russia, a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said the coalition should seek to end the Syrian crisis through talks and reject outside interference.
Iran said it plans to bring parties to the Syrian conflict to Tehran next week to participate in a "national dialogue."
The official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying representatives of the Syrian government will hold talks with representatives from tribes, political parties, minorities and the opposition.
There was no indication that the Syrian National Coalition would attend the talks in Tehran.
Meanwhile, a Syrian jet bombed the rebel-held town of Ras al-Ayn near the Turkish on November 13, killing at least one person. The same town was also bombed the day before.
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