France announced late on Tuesday that it recognizes Syria’s newly formed opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, becoming the first European nation to do so.
“I announce today that France recognizes the Syrian National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as future government of a democratic Syria allowing to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” said French President Francois Hollande in a news conference in Paris.
The Syrian coalition will act like a temporary government in the future, added Hollande.
The French president said that the issue of supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, previously opposed by Paris, would have to be reviewed.
“This question will have to be necessarily reviewed not only in France but in all countries which will recognize this government,” he said.
The announcement makes France the first major power to recognize the broad-based opposition coalition established in Doha on Sunday to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad after 20 months of an uprising against his rule.
France’s ally Britain has said it wants to see more evidence that the opposition grouping has strong support inside Syria before formally recognizing it as effectively a government in exile.
The United States has expressed support for the coalition and said it will work with it as it seeks to overthrow the regime of President Assad.
Earlier on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France will support a new Syrian opposition bloc after talks between Arab and EU diplomats in Cairo.
“Now they are united, it’s very important... France will support them,” AFP reported Fabius saying to reporters.
Syria’s newly named opposition leader, Mouaz AlKhatib, told Reuters on Tuesday he wanted European recognition and financial support for the new Syrian opposition coalition, saying this would allow it to act as a government and acquire arms.
“I request the European states to politically recognize the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and to give it financial support,” AlKhatib said in a phone interview.
“When we get the political recognition, this will make the coalition act as a government and hence acquire weapons and this will solve our problems,” AlKhatib added.
EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton has welcomed the creation of a new coalition of Syrian opposition groups during talks in Cairo on Tuesday.
In the meeting, Arab and EU foreign ministers said the coalition was legitimate and represented the Syrian people, urging the council to bring in more regime dissenters.