Turkey Recognizes Syrian Opposition
by VOA News November 15, 2012
The newly formed coalition of Syrian opposition groups is getting another boost, this time from Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Thursday recognized the Syrian National Coalition "as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Syria."
His comments came at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Djibouti, one day after France became the first Western power to recognize the newly formed coalition.
Turkey on Thursday received backing from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who says he favors giving Turkey anti-missile defense systems to place near its border with Syria.
Turkey, a member of the NATO, has asked the defense alliance to give protection to fend off missiles coming from Syria. Panetta said Turkey is facing a difficult situation because of the instability in Syria and the flow of refugees across the border.
Panetta made the comments Thursday in an exclusive interview with VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez.
Also Thursday, France 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.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview Thursday his country would work toward a coordinated plan for Syria with its European allies.
"For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being from the European side. The issue can be raised, it will no doubt be raised for defensive arms," he said. "And this is something that we can only do in coordination with the Europeans.''
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.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the formation of the coalition, which supersedes the widely discredited Syrian National Council, was an important step, but did not offer it full recognition or arms.
Syria 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.
Gunfire from Syria struck near an Israeli military outpost in the Golan Heights early Thursday. The Israeli military said no one was injured by the incident.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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