French Recognition of the Syrian Rebel Faction

On Nov 13, France became the first western country to give formal recognition to Syria’s newly-formed opposition coalition and acknowledge this group as the solitary lawful representative of the Syrian people.

In addition to France, the United States of America also gave its nod of recognition to the leadership opposition body that was announced in Qatar on Sunday. However, it said that this coalition cannot be regarded as the ‘sole’ one, as the newly-formed group first needs to display and prove its hold inside the country and represent the Syrians completely. This development could see a beginning of garnering world recognition for the rebellion group as the lawful and legitimate government of Syria, though then questions would be asked of the validity of such support on ground.

Among other reports, Turkey – which has been sheltering the refugees displaced by the bloody 20-month conflict, backed the opposition led by Mouaz-al-Khatib and expressed hope that recognition would bring forth a speedy set of steps to end the civil war. The Gulf Cooperation Council that includes Qatar and Saudi Arabia has joined suit in recognising the rebel government.

Western support, while an important victory for the fledgling rebel government, stops short of provision of aid in terms of armament or supplies. The opposition to President Bashar-al-Assad’s regime has long held out that the need for defensive weapons is dire, with the repeat bombing of ‘neutral’ zones by the air force causing limitless civilian casualties. While several countries have expressed reservations against the ‘militarisation’ of the conflict, France opined that a balance needed to be sought as stated by Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister. He added that France would propose to the European Union to lift the arms embargo, which sees a ban on armament supplies to either side in the ongoing civil war. Russia has expressed reservation on the proposal, claiming it to be in violation of international law.

The situation around the presence of ‘extremist elements and mercenaries’ as participants in the conflict was also breached by President Obama, thanks to his recent comment on the ongoing conflict in Syria. The French stand, however, puts the movement calling for an early end to the conflict in uncertain waters, as weapon procurement by either side would lead to an arms race leading to further bloodshed destruction of money and property. A diplomatic solution seems to be the region’s best bet, as escalation of this conflict is likely to engulf the neighbouring countries as well. Already, skirmishes between Turkey on one side and Israel on the other side have led to an increase of conflict in the border areas. Any further fracture in the region’s peace could lead to this war spilling across the borders. It is essential that the European Union keeps into account the long term impact of any move that involves provision of supplies to either side.