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27 Mar, 2013 16:26

Giving Syrian opposition seats at Arab League is ‘illegal, indefensible’ – Moscow

Giving Syrian opposition seats at Arab League is ‘illegal, indefensible’ – Moscow

The Arab League’s move to hand the Syrian opposition the country's official seat at a summit in Doha and the decision to give military backing to the rebels are both against international law, Moscow has said.

In terms of international law, decisions on Syria made by the [Arab] League are unlawful and indefensible, since the government of the Syrian Arab Republic remains the legal representative of the UN member-state,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement.

Arab leaders gathered on Tuesday for the League’s annual two-day summit in the Qatari capital Doha. To the outrage of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Syria's opposition National Coalition formally took the country's official seat at the gathering.

In November 2011, the Arab League suspended the republic’s membership in the organization.

Moscow called the Arab League’s decision to invite the Syrian opposition to the summit and give them Assad’s chair “yet another anti-Syrian step.”

The head of the opposition Coalition’s delegation, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, urged Arab leaders to beef up assistance to the opposition, including the provision of military aid and the foreign imposition of a no-fly zone over the country’s north. The Russian Foreign Ministry compared such a scenario to the Libyan conflict.  

Khatib also called on “Arab and friendly” states for support in granting the National Coalition a seat at the United Nations and other international organizations.

There was no firm consensus among summit participants that individual members of the League had the right to provide military aid to “anti-government armed groups in Syria,” the Russian diplomat pointed out.

The Doha summit’s decisions, “approved despite objection by a range of member-states, are perplexing, to say the least,” Lukashevich said, calling the move “open support for forces that, unfortunately, stand for a military solution” to the Syrian conflict.

Lukashevich also argued that the League’s decisions contradict the principles for a peaceful political settlement laid out in the Geneva Communiqué. The document was enacted on June 30, 2012, by major world powers with the participation of the Arab League’s Secretary General and some of the organization’s members, including Qatar, Lukashevich pointed out.   

The Communiqué said that an agreement must be reached between the Syrian government and opposition groups. “But not that some structure, whose legitimacy would be approved by external forces, would be set as opposition to the legal Syrian government,” the Russian diplomat said.  

Lukashevich said the latest moves “undermine the mandate” of the UN and Arab League mediator for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. Russia has maintained that the only way to stop the bloodshed in conflict-wracked Syria is through a political dialogue with both the government and opposition involved in the negotiations.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told RT that the Arab League’s actions will not help “move towards a political settlement.” Speaking about a political dialogue as the only way out of the crisis, Gatilov reminded that the Syrian government long ago appointed a negotiator. “As for the Syrian opposition, so far unfortunately we have not heard anyone from the opposition to be named as negotiators for the start of political contacts with the Syrian government.”

The Arab League’s decisions have come under fire in Damascus as well. State-run Syrian news agency SANA said that the organization compromised its “values for the sake of Gulf Arab and Western interests when it gave Syria's seat to the opposition Syrian National Coalition,” Reuters reported.