Syrian opposition urges US to 're-examine' blacklisting of 'terrorist group'
Washington has branded the jihadist Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, saying it is trying to hijack the Syrian uprising on behalf of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
US officials say the group has claimed responsibility for carrying out nearly 600 attacks that have killed numerous Syrians during the country’s 20-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
“Washington’s decision to call the Al-Nusra Front terrorists is seen as more of a symbolic move because many other fighters in Syria welcome the efforts of those designated terrorists,” RT correspondent Gayane Chichakyan said.
Moscow has welcomed the US move to add the Al-Nusra Front to a list of terrorist organizations, though the Russian Foreign Ministry says Washington is contradicting itself through its acknowledgement of that fact.
America’s decision has confirmed that the regime of President Bashar Assad is not dealing with a peaceful opposition, but rather with armed terrorist groups, Russia’s deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov said during a Public Chamber session.
"The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is already criticizing the US for adding Al-Nusra Front to a list of terrorist organizations. They say “these are our comrades, friends, we’re together,” Bogdanov continued.
Symbolic or not, the decision to blacklist the group has been deemed hypocritical since the US has agreed to acknowledge the National Coalition – of which the Al-Nusra Front is a member – as the country’s official opposition group.
The move has also angered opposition leaders.
"The decision to blacklist one of the groups fighting the regime as a terrorist organization must be re-examined," the bloc's leader Ahmed Moaz Khatib said at the Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco.
The decision comes after reports that the US is launching a covert operation to supply the Syrian opposition with weapons for the very first time.
If the reports are true, it could mean the US will be supplying the National Coalition with a number of weapons, including SA-7 missiles, which can shoot down planes. Furthermore, it would mean the US is supplying arms to a group which it has openly labeled a terrorist organization.
However, Khatib says any weapons that find themselves in the hands of the opposition will be used for one sole purpose – to overthrow the Assad government.
"We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision. But we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime," he said.
Syrian opposition members have recently asked for increased military assistance.
"We need not only bread to help our people. We need support for our Syrian army. We need to speed up things and get rid of this regime,” opposition member Saleem Abdul Aziz al Meslet told AP.
Friends of Syria
Representatives from more than 100 countries, including the US, Britain, France, and Gulf countries, gathered in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Wednesday to affirm their support for the National Coalition.
The meeting came one day after US President Barack Obama said the coalition “is now inclusive enough" to be deemed the sole "legitimate representative."
Conference members also announced new humanitarian assistance for Syrians, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia and a fund for the reconstruction of the country after Assad falls. The fund will be managed by Germany.
The National Coalition was formed after Washington and other western governments criticized the opposition for its lack of unity. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a shakeup of the movement in November.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the recognition of the coalition contradicts international agreements aimed at starting a Syrian dialogue which would include all sides involved in the conflict.