Syrian opposition: In search for legitimate status

The League not only recognised the organisation as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people but also urged all the rebels to unite under its banner. Source: Rustam Buzanov / RIA Novosti

The League not only recognised the organisation as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people but also urged all the rebels to unite under its banner. Source: Rustam Buzanov / RIA Novosti

The West has not made it clear yet how it will interact with the new opposition coalition, while Russia insists that the new alliance can be useful only if its members start talks with Damascus.

The Arab League has recognised the National Coalition for Syrian Oppositional and Revolutionary forces (NCSORF), a coalition of opposition groups in the Syrian conflict that was founded in Doha, Qatar last week. The West has not made it clear yet how it will interact with the new organisation, while Russia insists that the new alliance can be useful only if its members start talks with Damascus.

The Arab League was somewhat inspired by the news about the unification of the Syrian opposition groups. The League not only recognised the organisation as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people but also urged all the rebels to unite under its banner. Ahmad Mouaz Al-Khatib Al-Hasani, a 52 year old Sunni Muslim imam, was elected as the president of the National Coalition for Syrian Oppositional and Revolutionary forces. Khatib says that the unification of the oppositional forces will give a new impetus to the struggle and help to overthrow Assad. Khatib also promises that if the coalition comes to power it won’t prosecute representatives of any of the religious movements in Syria.

However the statements about the legitimacy of the coalition came too early. “This new coalition does not represent even all the groups of the opposition. But under serious pressure from Qatar this organization will be gradually ‘filled’ with legitimacy,” says Sergey Demidenko, expert at the Institute of Strategic Studies.

Meanwhile Western officials say they have not decided yet how they will interact with the new organisation. However The Guardian has published some recent statements by Khatib which cast light upon this interaction. In particular, the leader of the new coalition said that the opponents had united under the single leadership not only to fight more efficiently the regime of Assad but also to legitimise weapon supplies from abroad. With these statements Khatib actually set up his patrons, says Sergey Mikheyev, head of the Centre of Political Studies.

“In fact the Syrian opponents set up their Western sponsors,” adds Mikheyev. “The financial aid and weapons supplies are under way. The statement made by Khatib proved a simple thing – the West is ready to act regardless of the UN resolutions. The entire situation around the Arab League is an attempt to by-pass the problems Americans and their allies have with the UN.”

While the opposition leaders were engaged in diplomatic activities the rebels took up the initiative. The Arab mass media published an ultimatum of the so called Military Council of the Syrian Liberation Army of Damascus and near-by areas. The Council demanded that all the foreign diplomatic missions and representative offices of international organisations must leave Syria in 72 hours. In addition the council’s representative voiced threats addressed to Russia saying that if Moscow does not change its position on Syria it will be treated as an “enemy state”. In response Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that any ultimatums on behalf of the Syrian opposition were inadmissible. It is not admissible to link Syria’s future with those who place stakes on violent and explicitly terrorist methods. Any associations of the opposition groups will be useful only if their representatives sit at the negotiating table with the legitimate government in Damascus. 

First published in the Voice of Russia.

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