Middle East

France to support new Syrian opposition bloc: Fabius

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks during a news conference in Tripoli November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

CAIRO: France will support a new Syrian opposition bloc, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday after talks with its leaders in Cairo, where EU diplomats were meeting with their Arab counterparts.

"Now they are united, it's very important... France will support them," Fabius told reporters.

Following marathon talks in Doha, Syrian opposition groups agreed on Sunday to unite under the umbrella of the new National Council headed by moderate Muslim cleric Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.

Fabius met with both Khatib and George Sabra, the head of the Syrian National Council, a powerful opposition grouping which finally agreed to join the wider, more representative bloc.

Fabius fell short of a formal recognition of the new coalition but underlined that Paris had "always been at the forefront" of support for the Syrian opposition which he said had "reached a very important step" by uniting.

The French top diplomat is in Cairo for a meeting of European and Arab foreign foreign ministers at the Arab League headquarters.

EU Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who addressed Tuesday's opening session at the League, welcomed the Doha agreement but warned of a spillover of the conflict which has killed more than 37,000 since March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"I want to welcome the work done in Doha to build and bring together the opposition, to be inclusive of the people in Syria to be determined in the offer they make to the people," Ashton told delegates.

"But the tragedy of Syria is a tragedy that affects not just that country but the whole region," she said.

"Countries represented here know the challenges of refugees fleeing for their lives, the threat of the overspill of violence," she added.

The Arab League on Monday recognised the National Council as "the legitimate representative and main interlocutor with the Arab League" and called on other dissidents to join the coalition.

"It is the legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who heads the Arab League group for Syria, told reporters.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has gone further than the Arab League, saying on Monday its six member states had decided to recognise the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.





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