Britain Welcomes Syrian Opposition Leaders

Posted November 16th, 2012 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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Britain is holding talks with Syrian opposition leaders in London Friday, saying it needs to know more about the opposition's plans before it can formally recognize the group.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC ahead of talks with the new Syrian opposition leader, Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib, and other opposition leaders that he wanted to hear more about how much support the group has inside of Syria. He said he also wanted to hear how the Kurdish minority is going to be included in the opposition government and who they plan to appoint to particular positions.

Hague said Britain would decide whether to formally recognize the group “in the coming days.”

The talks in London come a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Thursday formerly recognized the Syrian National Coalition “as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Syria.”

On Wednesday, France became the first Western power to recognize the newly formed coalition.

France also said it will bring up excluding defensive weapons from the current arms embargo on Syria in order to help rebels fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Britain said Friday it would discuss the future of the arms embargo with its European partners but had not made a decision to change its position.

French President Francois Hollande will meet leaders of the Syrian opposition coalition in Paris on Saturday.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has also recognized the rebel group.

The United States has declined to fully recognize the opposition coalition, saying the group must first prove its worth after its predecessor was dogged by feuding and accusations of Islamist domination.

Syria has denounced the organization, which it said had closed the door to a negotiated solution with President Bashar al-Assad.

The fifth meeting of the Friends of the Syria will be held on November 30 in Tokyo. Japan will chair the meeting.