News / Middle East

'Friends of Syria' Recognize Syrian Opposition; Scuds Fired

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, chats with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani at a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, chats with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani at a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Marrakech, Morocco, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012.
Carla Babb
A group of more than 100 nations calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down has formally recognized a newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
In another development, a senior U.S. official says the Syrian government recently fired Scud missiles at insurgents.  There was no indication the missiles carried chemical weapons.  
The use of Scud missiles could be seen as an escalation of the nearly two-year conflict in Syria, and it comes as more international favor has shifted toward the rebels. 
"We want to accelerate the political transition in Syria to stop the bloodshed in this country," said Moroccan Foreign Minister Saadeddine el Othmani, host of the "Friends of Syria" conference in Marrakech that endorsed the opposition Syrian National Coalition. 

Regional Food Security at a Glance

  • Prices are up in Southern Africa on disappointing harvests.

  • Markets in West Africa were mostly stable but high, and large numbers of people remain displaced by conflict.

  • East Africa saw seasonal declines with the new harvest.

  • In the Great Lakes, conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo means more than 6 million people need food assistance, 2 million more than last year.   

  • In the Middle East, food security concerns are increasing in Syria due to the civil conflict, Yemen remains a trouble spot.

  • Wheat prices are up in the countries of the former Soviet Union on poor harvests.

  • Prices are up in Haiti due to damage from tropical storms.
The conference was aimed at agreeing on a strategy for a political transition if President Bashar al-Assad's government falls.  Delegates also discussed how the conflict is affecting regional security, as well as efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
The director of the Brookings Doha Center, Salman Shaikh, said the new coalition's leadership is "satisfied" with the outcome of the meeting.
"It's safe to say this is the most significant Friends [of Syria] meeting there's been. In fact, it's probably the first significant Friends [of Syria] meeting there has been," he said.
Shaikh said various countries involved pledged $143 million in aid for the Syrian opposition, including a $100 million aid package from Saudi Arabia.
US endorsement
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in Marrakech that the sooner the Syrian president "steps aside, the better for all Syrians."
The United States recognized the opposition coalition Tuesday, hours after it labeled a Syrian jihadist force fighting alongside the rebels as a terrorist organization.  The State Department said the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusrah is serving as an alias of al-Qaida in Iraq as it attempts to infiltrate the Syrian conflict. 
By Wednesday, the leader of the opposition coalition urged the United States to review its decision to label Jabhat al-Nusrah a terrorist group.
"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,'' opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib said. 

  • A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 11, 2012.
  • Syrian residents carry their belongings after their homes were damaged due to fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 11, 2012.
  • A woman and girl carry their belongings after their home was damaged in fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 11, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters warm themselves by a fire in Aleppo's al-Amereya district, December 11, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters look for government forces during heavy clashes in Aleppo, Syria, December 11, 2012.
  • This image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network shows what was said to be heavy shelling by warplanes near Damascus, Syria, December 10, 2012.
  • People shop at a market near buildings damaged in heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 9, 2012.
  • People wait in line to buy bread at a bakery in Aleppo, Syria, December 9, 2012.
  • Men use a fire to boil water near their tent at a refugee camp near the Turkish border, in Azaz, Syria, December 9, 2012.
  • General view of a refugee camp near the Turkish border, in Azaz, Syria, December 9, 2012.

The U.S. formal recognition of the opposition, made by President Barack Obama in a television interview, stops short of any U.S. commitment to arm the rebels, a move that Shaikh says still significantly aids rebels fighting for democracy on the ground.
"A role by the United States, bringing with it the assets, both the intelligence, as well as the sort of training and assistance aspect which they can bring, is actually quite useful," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is if Assad was to fall tomorrow, we have really no guarantee that we have forces on the ground that can ensure the safety and security that is required for a political process and a political transition process to take root."
Russian disapproval
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. recognition of the opposition coalition goes against efforts to establish a political transition in Syria. 
"As the coalition has been recognized as the only legitimate representative, it seems that the United States decided to place all bets on the armed victory of this very national coalition," Lavrov said.
Moscow opposes Western demands to impose regime change on the Syrian president, a longtime Russian ally.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Justice
December 12, 2012 9:02 PM
Sorry but those who behead the innocent are no friends of mine!! They classed one group as terrorists. There is far more than one. What was another peaceful nation where Christians and Muslims could live peacefully together, is destroyed in the guise of "helping" the people..those countries are now ruled by true tyrannical and criminal regimes...

by: WILLIAM from: Argentina
December 12, 2012 8:33 PM
The fall of the vesanic regime of assad in Siria, and the asumption in the power, to the current rebel leidershipness is a concrete fact, the question When ? its just a matter of time, but the priority key is the post assad age. The US and Europe partners, must to agree in the most short place of time, on the reconstruction of Siria, comercial investments, the sirian jobs, the provision of public services, market deploy, and the help as important to the return of refugees, the call for a new government and constitution, or the reduce of poverty, and medical private services to population , every efffort, considerable to the new country it should to be consider priority to the future of Syrian country and its people. William.
In Response

by: Marls from: Australia
December 13, 2012 6:09 AM
@William. "vesanic regime", yet we are watching on facebook beheadings of handcuffed men by children following the command of FSA terrorists. "US & Europe partners, must to agree". Have you ever heard the word: "Self-determination". To what extent would you like your neighbour coming into your house and decide how things should be run there? Syria kicked their colonial master in 1946. Would you approve of US and Europe deciding matters on Argentina? I know many Argentinians & am yet to find someone who has such narrow mind set.
In Response

by: Pegasus from: Australia
December 13, 2012 2:20 AM
Agreed William, the main challenges to be faced with a new regime is who will lead the government; and scenes such as those seen recently in Egypt where president Morsi was seen as a "dictator replacing a dictator" will greatly effect the situation as well as the motivations of foreign freedom fighters in Syria about the workings and beliefs of the future government which where seen in major conflicts throughout the Arab Spring. (eg: Al queda in Yemen)

by: jethromayham from: vietnam
December 12, 2012 6:04 PM
Russia is left out in the cold again. LMAO

by: Sunny Enwerem
December 12, 2012 5:16 PM
Russia should be listened to because I feel they do have a point BUT Assad needs to go at this point and let his Sunni deputy take charge to talks.

by: musawi melake from: -
December 12, 2012 4:12 PM
"Legitimate govt. of the Syrian people"? legitimate through what, the use of bullets or ballots?. "Friends of Syria"!, does this mean the other recogonized and urecogonized Nations and States are enemies of the Syrian people? This is nothing but oldwine in a new bottle!, i.e. the same old colonial tactis used in the past centuries for plunder of the world by the Europeans. Those idiotic and selfish regimes both among the Arabs and elsewhere are making grave mistakes by siding with the evil, believing the day for their own demise at the hands of the West will not come. Probably, this is what Assad and others would have thought about when Moamar Gaddafi was being bombed and strangulated, but the day did come for the Assads, and might do so for the others like the Mullas of Tehran. The foolish Syrians who shed their valuable lives for Americans and Europeans, just because some selfish Syrians living in the West make them believe things would be better for them if Assad is removed, are simply ading the Jewish greed for money by eliminating Chinese competions in investing in these places. Nothing is going to change if and when Assad or similar entities are removed an replaced by West-fireindly regimes, only the investors would be European-Jews and American-Jews that are going to take away the riches like they do in Lybia, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assad regime is an abomination, but that thing should be removed by the people of the country, truely alone. Bu inviting external interests that pretend to help is jusy an invitation for giving away all you have. They'll ask you to pay back the money they gave you in arms and amunitions. They will stay there for decades if not centuries.
In Response

by: ala albanese from: australia
December 13, 2012 12:29 AM
Totally agree that the new syria should be elected by the syrian people and not by the european and american president.they have overthrown lybia,iraq in the process of claiming afghanistan or should i say puppetising the government and don,t be surprised if many more middle east countries will find themselves in conflict ,so the american and european leaders can take control of their parliaments as well.Why is america going out of its way to cause conflict,do they realise that a bigger force off american hatred is growing stronger through the middle east.

They are backing israel over the gaza strip and troubling iran and north korea has the rights to test missle if they want to go to space as every country has the rights to better themselves,how would america act if they were told they can,t do this or that they would retalliate with force believe me thats all they know.Did they actually start this dispute in the name of freedom as they seem to be wanting in on the battle to sell their arms and military support

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs