Spain Recognizes Syrian Opposition


Spain said Thursday it had decided to recognize the opposition Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government also invited the Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib to visit Spain.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo announced the move in an interview late Wednesday, which was confirmed Thursday in a statement by his ministry.

Madrid also called on President Bashar Assad to step down.

"We all agree that Bashar al-Assad, if only for humanitarian reasons, should leave power," Garcia-Margallo said.

France on November 13 became the first Western state to recognize the newly formed Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and it was swiftly joined by Britain.

Paris has also suggested arming opposition fighters.

Spain's Foreign Ministry said its decision was a recognition of efforts made by Syrian opposition factions to "leave aside their differences and come together" as it and the European Union had been demanding.

"President Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib has been key to obtaining this consensus," the Spanish ministry statement said.

"It is essential that the coalition take the reins of the opposition to guarantee that the political transition is seen as representing the aspirations of the whole Syrian people, thus leaving no room for extremist sectors."

The opposition coalition, formed in Doha on November 11, says it is committed to building a provisional government composed of representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in conflict-ridden Syria.

But it refuses to engage with the Damascus regime before Assad's departure.

Spain noted that the coalition had committed itself to protecting human rights including those of minorities.

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