EU Foreign Ministers Meet Syrian Opposition Head

December 10, 2012, Monday // 06:20
Bulgaria: EU Foreign Ministers Meet Syrian Opposition Head
Head of the National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition, Ahmad Mouaz Al-Khatib arrives to a meeting with European foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, 10 December 2012. EPA/BGNES

EU foreign ministers have met the head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition which several believe should be recognized as the legitimate replacement for President Bashar al-Assad.

Welcoming Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib "is a clear signal of how the status of the Syrian coalition is being reviewed," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said as he went into a meeting with his EU colleagues at which the bloody conflict in Syria is a major talking point, international media reported.

"It is a coalition which represents the legitimate interests of the Syrian people. We want that to be recognised as such by the European Union," Westerwelle added.

Earlier British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was happy that EU ministers would meet Khatib and hoped that other member states would follow Paris and London in giving the group full recognition.

The EU currently recognizes the coalition as "legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people," which falls short of recognising it outright as a potential successor government.

Full recognition could allow Western powers to arm rebel forces seeking to oust President Assad but that is a sensitive issue, with some EU member states very cautious about the possible unintended consequences of such a step.

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton met Khatib earlier Monday, saying she had stressed that the new coalition had to ensure that it included all opinion in Syria and that it was committed to democratic standards.

Khatib has visited London and Paris but his meeting Monday with the 27 EU foreign ministers "has a larger symbolic importance," one diplomat said.

After the talks, the European Commission announced that it would provide another EUR 30 M in humanitarian aid to help people affected by the Syrian civil war, bringing its total contribution to some EUR 126 M

Bulgaria's EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said that the "humanitarian situation in Syria is deteriorating daily" and the increased aid was a gesture of support until "a viable political solution to this terrible conflict can be found."


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