BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers Monday met the head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition which several believe should be recognised as the legitimate replacement for President Bashar al-Assad.
Welcoming Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib "is a clear signal of how the status of the Syrian coalition is being reviewed," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said as he went into a meeting with his EU colleagues at which the bloody conflict in Syria is a major talking point.
"It is a coalition which represents the legitimate interests of the Syrian people. We want that to be recognised as such by the European Union," Westerwelle said.
Earlier British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was happy that EU ministers would meet Khatib and hoped that other members would follow Paris and London in giving the group full recognition.
The EU currently recognises the coalition as "legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people," which falls short of recognising it outright as a potential successor government.
Full recognition could allow Western powers to arm rebel forces seeking to oust President Assad but that is a sensitive issue, with some EU member states very cautious about the possible unintended consequences of such a step.
The EU recently rolled over its arms embargo on all Syrian parties for another three months to March 1.
EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton met Khatib earlier Monday, saying she had stressed that the new coalition had to ensure that it included all opinion in Syria and that it was committed to democratic standards.
Khatib has visited London and Paris but his meeting Monday with the 27 EU foreign ministers "has a larger symbolic importance," one diplomat said.