Reuters and AFP
MOSCOW/DOHA/TEHRAN–Russia on Wednesday called the Arab League’s decision to award Syria’s seat at the organization to the anti-regime Syrian National Coalition (SNC) “illegal and indefensible.” “In terms of international law, the League’s decision on Syria is illegal and indefensible because the government of the Syrian Arab Republic was and is the legitimate representative member-state at the United Nations,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib took Syria’s seat at the League on Tuesday as Arab leaders gathered in Doha for their annual summit. The move sparked a furious reaction from Damascus. The foreign ministry noted that Khatib used the opportunity in Doha to call for the establishment of internationally enforced no-fly zones over areas in Syria controlled by the armed opposition. It then accused the Arab League of effectively supporting a military solution to the conflict instead of peace talks. Leading an opposition delegation into the Doha meeting to thunderous applause from Arab leaders, Khatib demanded that the opposition also be allowed to represent Syria at the United Nations. The summit affirmed the “right of every state to offer all forms of self-defense, including military, to support the resistance of the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army.” Iran Slams Arab League over Syria Opposition Seat Iran’s foreign ministry on Wednesday criticized as a “dangerous precedent” the Arab League’s decision to allocate Syria’s long-vacant seat to the Syrian opposition. “Handing Syria’s seat to the so-called provisional government is a dangerous precedent by the members of the Arab League,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iranian media as telling reporters. In a separate report on the official IRNA news agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said this decision to hand the seat to the opposition “is in effect the end of the (Arab) League’s role in the region.” He also warned that such fate could await other members of the Arab organization in the future. Syrian Vice Prime Minister Qadri Jamil too criticized the Arab League, telling Iran’s Fars news agency that the Syrian people “are disappointed with (it) and do not recognize it.” Missile Request Rebuff Helps Assad: Opposition The refusal of international powers to provide Patriot missile support for rebel-held areas of northern Syria sends a message to President Bashar al-Assad to “do what you want,” Syrian opposition leader Khatib said on Wednesday. Khatib, a popular figure in the opposition, also said he would not rescind his resignation as leader of the main anti-Assad alliance but he would still perform leadership duties for the time being. NATO said on Tuesday it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria after Alkhatib said he had asked the United States to use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from Assad’s air power.
“Yesterday I was really surprised by the comment issued from the White House that it was not possible to increase the range of the Patriot missiles to protect the Syrian people,” Alkhatib told Reuters in an interview. “I’m scared that this will be a message to the Syrian regime telling it ‘Do what you want.’” The Syrian opposition coalition, recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative for Syria, opened its first embassy in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday. In presence of Arab and Western ambassadors, the president of Syria’s opposition coalition, Moaz Khatib and Qatari Khalid al-Atiyah, state minister for foreign affairs, cut the ribbon at the entrance to the embassy.