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France Recognizes New Syrian Rebel Coalition

Syrian rebels take position during clashes with regime forces in Al-Amariya district of the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday.
AFP/Getty Images
Syrian rebels take position during clashes with regime forces in Al-Amariya district of the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday.

France recognized the newly formed collection of rebel groups in Syria as the country's legitimate government today.

The New York Times reports that France is first European country to take that step and perhaps more importantly, France also left open the possibility of arming the rebels.

"France recognises the Syrian National Coalition as the only representative of the Syrian people and therefore as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria," President Francois Hollande said in Paris, according to Al Jazeera.

He added: "On the question of weapons deliveries, France did not support it as long as it wasn't clear where these weapons went. With the coalition, as soon as it is a legitimate government of Syria, this question will be looked at by France, but also by all countries that recognize this government."

The Times reports that the United States and Britain have not recognized the rebel group. The paper explains:

"[Hollande's] announcement came as the rebel coalition's newly chosen leader, Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, a former imam of the historic Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and a respected figure inside Syria, made a broad appeal to Western and Arab countries for recognition and military aid. Foreign ministers of the Arab League, while approving the new group as the 'legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition,' have not agreed on recognizing the group as a provisional government to replace [Bashar] Assad.

"There are widespread expectations that the new coalition will seek to establish itself as the government in rebel-held areas of northern Syria near the Turkish border, which if successful could signal a significant change in the conflict. Mr. Assad has ridiculed the insurgency against him partly because it does not have cohesive control in any part of the country. He has also benefited from the opposition's fractiousness."

Reuters reports that British Prime Minister William Hague said his country would back the new coalition only after it had showed that it had support within Syria.

"If they have this, yes, we will then recognize them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people," he said according to Reuters.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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