News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Takes Seat at Arab Summit

Arab League Gives Syrian Opposition Seat at the Tablei
March 26, 2013 6:38 PM
Syria's opposition leaders are representing the country for the first time at the Arab League, which opened a two-day summit Tuesday in Qatar. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.
Arab League Gives Syrian Opposition Seat at the Table
Elizabeth ArrottEdward Yeranian
Syria's opposition representatives took the country's seat at an Arab summit for the first time on Tuesday, saying that the U.S. should use Patriot surface-to-air missiles to protect rebel-held areas from President Bashar al-Assad's airpower.

Opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib said the United States should play a bigger role helping to end the two-year conflict and that he had asked Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces to help defend rebel-controlled parts of northern Syria.

NATO said on Tuesday it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria, although three NATO countries have sent Patriot missile batteries to Turkey to protect its cities from possible attack from Syria.

Syria's seat had been vacant since the Arab League suspended its membership in 2011.  Most Arab League members have called for President Assad to step down.

Khatib recently resigned as head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, but led the Syrian delegation at the two-day summit in Qatar at the invitation of that country's emir.

Arab leaders, diplomats and delegates applauded as Qatar's ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, officially handed the Syrian government's seat at the summit to Khatib.

Doha pushed for recognition of the opposition, despite objections of several Arab League members.

Syria slams move

Syrian government media slammed the move, saying it went against the spirit of the Arab League charter. A government daily newspaper called the decision "shameful" and accused the league of adopting what it called a "Zionist-American" position.

Despite discord and division within the opposition, Khatib delivered an impassioned address to the gathering, saying that he spoke for many Syrians who have been victimized during the two-year-old conflict.

Khatib said he saluted the summit in the name of a brave people, many of whom are now homeless, imprisoned, or who gave their lives to defend freedom.

Khatib accused the Syrian regime of torturing young men, imprisoning women and children, bombing bakeries as families waited to buy bread, and using planes and missiles to attack them. He also blasted the international community for watching without taking action.

​Other speakers, including Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, urged nations to take stronger action to protect the Syrian people against what they termed the Assad government's relentless military onslaught.

But Iraqi representative Khudayr al-Khuzai urged the gathering to find a "peaceful, political solution" to the Syrian conflict and to condemn what he called "outside meddling" in the fighting.

Qatar's influence

Syria's opposition has the backing of Qatar which is providing material and political support, including to hardline Islamists also fighting Syrian government forces.

Some analysts believe Qatar, whose wealth has also helped Arab Spring forces in Libya and Egypt, puts a wild card into play.
"Because Qatar is such a new player in the region, given its aspirations, it's difficult to know precisely what they are doing," said Christian Donath, a political analyst at the American University in Cairo.

VOA's Mark Snowiss contributed to this report from Washington.

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Comment Sorting
by: Ali Amiri from: Tehran
March 27, 2013 6:05 PM
Some regrettable remarks ! Hope wisdom , our true experience and correct knowledge , eventually prevail !
Above all you are required to make a distinction between what people think or believe and the decision makers.It is their policy makers , in particular when these are feeble-minded , self-satisfied and unelected, who make the key political Wrong decisions ! If not all but the chief part of Iranian are involved with huge amounts of numerous difficulties so as they only mind their own daily affairs,They do not think of going to kill innocent Syrian or... children by blowing themselves up for the sake of.... If there is any case , let me know of that ? Since the 911 it was you ARABS and your hired frozen-minded partneres, committing these horrible crimes, ending in disgracing all muslims! Take a wise and impartial look at the explosions in IRAQ as well as in Syria . On the other side you see very rare counter attacks by Shiat , christian Jews , Kurds and other minorities . They are all Fenatic and radical Sunnies who want to destroy the entire world including Now Syria and then others, making way into hearth of darkness for their evil objectives ! We have been experiencing a religious regime in which you are constrained in many ways. I am against any kind of restriction in any way therefore I personally do not desire a likewise for Syrians !
Moreover , I am absolutely not a pro-Religious Regim , no mater in which country it is . These autocratic.... belonged to the Medival era !! however keep this reality in mind that It is Saudi...Qatar a recently emerged scorching township and turkish authorities who are the real Murderes of Syrian people . They are the main cause for one million displaced..... Iran has been since long time helping Syria in different occasions with Huge amounts of Oil for free and or very cheep...We have not set up any ware anywhere !
Do not blame the whole failure On Assad . He is Bad ,cruel and hateful ! You are the Worst.

by: ali baba from: new york
March 27, 2013 3:33 AM
birds from feathers flock together. many Arab used to have secular Gov. now the situation changed and many choose radical Islam which have devastated effect such what happened in Egypt ,Sudan,,and Libya . and Syria is jointed the club of radical of islem. thanks of United state policy maker .their ignorance for middle East mentality., Islam .radical Islam will have a disaster effect.. their decision to support radical Islam such as .give military aids to Egypt. give arm to Syria will put the region in a flame

by: Jan Fearing from: US
March 26, 2013 7:51 AM
If the opposition (who only took 2 years to make 1 decision and that was a bad one) can take the Syrian seat at the Arab League, I vote we give the US seat at the UN to the Tea Party or the Occupy Wall Streeters. The Arab League, oh I mean the Qatar and Saudi League, has getting threatened by Assad's overwhelming support from his people and his success towards making a TRUE and prosperous democracy without their Islamic revolution. But, France, the UK and US had to step in to help our buddies with the oil and to justify our defense budgets. Bravo! I'm an old hawk, GOP, NRA, etc from way back but our war on terror is just feeding terrorism and breeding hatred for the US.

by: Ali Amiri from: Tehran
March 26, 2013 7:06 AM
It is a great pity and so depressing that the U.S Government is supporting the Terrorist Groups who are undoubtedly offshoots of Alqaedeh and their Arab Masters. They are committing all the reprehensible inhuman crimes ! I am not adherent to Assad Family ! They are bad But you are supporting Worse and maybe the Worst who are after extinction of Human ' s Civilization ! then breed and grow a bunch of animals like themselves . You the thoughtful Americas Stop you Government doing that !!
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
March 27, 2013 3:52 AM
to reply to Anonymous
I agree with you that us did a mistake to support rebel.
if you believe that Bashar el Assad kill thousands of innocent people .wait and see how many innocent ill be killed by sprain rebel .it will be genocide such as Sudanese committed in Darfur and southern part of Sudan
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
March 27, 2013 3:45 AM
It is a dilemma. Syrian rebel belong a radical Islam group. .Iran is terrorist country. which choose liar and deception to achieve its goal. Choose one of these groups Syrian rebel or Iranian Gov. is a stupid mistake .and who did this stupid mistake? The American policy maker did this mistake.. Us should not interfere and let them solve their problem with their own way .survivor for stronger
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 26, 2013 5:53 PM
Totally agree, the US is making a mistake supporting the so-called "rebels".
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 26, 2013 11:35 AM
You are wrong there, Bashar al Assad is the biggest terrorist in Syria. He has killed more innocent civilians than anyone. Now he is hiring people from Iran to come to Syria and kill Syrians, because Bashar can not get Syrians to kill Syrians. These Iranians that go to Syria and kill Syrians, deserve the worst possible punishment. You best tell your friends in Iran, warn them....

It will be nice once Bashar is fully disabled, and either jailed or killed for his crimes against the Syrian Nation, killing tens of thousands of innocent people. Just like his daddy Hafez did.

There has been more crimes commited by Bashar al Assad than anyone in the History of Syria (to this date).

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