France Recognizes the Syrian Opposition Coalition

Syrian Independence Flag.
Photo: Flickr.com/FreedomHouse2

The announcement arrived on Tuesday November 13 that France recognizes the newly formed Syrian rebel coalition named the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.  In press conference at the Elysée French President Francois Hollande said his government recognizes the coalition “as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria.”

Along with all states in the Arab League, France is the sole Western nation to accept the coalition.  Under the supervision of Qatar and the Arab League, tough negotiations went underway Sunday, which resulted in a coalition all the rebel forces could stand behind.  After 20 months of conflict, with around 40,000 Syrians dead, 2.5 million displaced, and 400,000 refugees who have fled the country, according to a United Nations report, the civil war has managed to destabilize the Middle East.

France, who has promoted economic and oil sanctions on Syria, has been encouraging the United Nations and the United States to take a more decisive action toward Syria for some time now.  Although the US has been against military intervention in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly urged that the rebels create an organized opposition government, something that the the rebels are closer to doing after this Sunday.  However, the US is still hesitant to recognize the coalition, stating that the US hopes that the coalition creates more organization within itself.  UK Foreign Minister William Hague spoke with reporters early this week expressing similar sentiments that his government is waiting to see that the coalition is as “inclusive as possible” of all the opposition groups, and that it has support “inside” from the Syrian people.

Striving to represent a unified front to the international community, the rebels took one step further in their efforts to unite and organize when they elected a president of their coalition, Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, a religious moderate who worries that he can quickly lose legitimacy if the military stalemate in Syria continues.  Thus the push to create a coalition of opposition groups arrises from the need to obtain foreign aid, especially weapons, which it sees as essential to its success in overthrowing the current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  The newly elected president of the rebel opposition can more effectively reach out to the international community to channel foreign aid.  The more legitimacy the government receives from other nations, the more authority it can have to ask such aid.

Despite his past pronouncements during his recent visits across the Middle East, Hollande stated that the question of arming the group will become more seriously considered when the coalition stabilizes and more countries recognize the government. However, by beginning the process of recognition by the Western nations, France has put more pressure on the coalition to succeed.  Espousing what the UK government has already said, political scientists argue that the opposition group must now look to create a secure rebel-controlled zone within Syria to be successful in bringing down Assad, but they say that this step might require US support.

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