The leader of Syria’s new opposition coalition has urged European states to recognise it as the legitimate government, enabling it to buy the weapons it needs to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad.
Britain and France appeared to set further conditions for doing so yesterday, notably that it first rallies support inside Syria, before they grant full recognition to the Syrian National Coalition.
Like the United States, Europeans are still reluctant to arm rebel forces, which include anti-western Islamists.
Their caution, and an Arab League endorsement that stopped short of full recognition, indicate that the coalition forged with such difficulty in Qatar last weekend may yet find it hard to win wholehearted support, even from its allies.
Mouaz al-Khatib, the Damascus preacher elected unopposed on Sunday to lead the new group, yesterday asked for diplomatic backing. “I request European states to grant political recognition to the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and to give it financial support,” he said.
“When we get political recognition, this will allow the coalition to act as a government and hence acquire weapons and this will solve our problems,” Mr al-Khatib added.
UK foreign minister, William Hague said the coalition must show it had support within Syria before London would acknowledge it. “If they have this, yes, we will then recognise them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he told reporters at an Arab-European meeting in Cairo.