At a conference of the "Friends of Syria," the opposition is to be upgraded. The USA is signaling support. Germany is providing 20 million euros.
Barack Obama has now also recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representation of the Syrian people. Photo: dpa
After the EU, the United States is now also practicing solidarity with the Syrian opposition: the Syrian National Coalition opposition movement is the "legitimate representative" of its people, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday evening in an interview with the ABC News TV channel.
The newly formed umbrella organization is "now comprehensive enough" to grant an upgrade in its status, he said. The move, he said, is "a big step" in international diplomatic efforts to bring about the end of President Bashar al Assad’s regime.
"With recognition, of course, comes responsibility," Obama cautioned at the same time. That means, he said, that the opposition alliance must organize itself effectively, see itself as representing all parties and strive for a political transition that respects the rights of women and minorities.
Before the U.S., the European Union and several Arab states had already recognized the Syrian National Coalition, which was formed in Qatar last month.
On 12/12/12, the Syrian opposition is expected to receive a significant political boost at a meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria. Representatives of more than 100 states are meeting in Marrakech to recognize the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. This means that the international community finally has a point of contact for the political process and the Syrians have a platform for a new beginning after the end of the Assad regime, said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Berlin on Tuesday. The FDP politician will attend the meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria himself.
German aid payments increased
At the same time, Westerwelle called on the Syrian opposition movement to be open to all religious and political groups, "including Christians, Kurds and Alawites." To count on stronger support from the international community, the Syrian coalition must commit to refraining from violence against civilians, the foreign minister added.
Prior to the meeting, Westerwelle announced a 22 million euro increase in German aid for victims of the Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile, Syrian insurgents were able to capture an important military base in the north of the country after weeks of fighting, according to activists. The rebels took control of the Sheikh Suleiman barracks west of Aleppo on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. It said 35 soldiers from government forces had been killed in the fighting since Sunday alone.
According to the Observatory, the insurgents had included many fighters from the Islamist group Jabhat al Nusra. The growing presence of extremists in the ranks of government opponents had recently caused concern in the West. Only on Monday did U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially classify the group as a foreign terrorist organization and impose sanctions against its members. However, the group’s recent military successes indicate that Jabhat al Nusra is one of the insurgents’ most effective units.
Four mortar shells struck Aleppo on Tuesday, the Observatory reported. Eleven people were killed and dozens more wounded in the attack on the Sheik Maksud neighborhood, which is mainly inhabited by Kurds, it said. Three children and two women were also among the dead, it said. Dozens of people were killed or injured in the shelling of the village of Akrab in the central province of Hama, according to the Observatory.
The clashes in Syria are estimated to have claimed the lives of 40,000 people so far.