17 April 2014, Thursday
Today's Zaman

Syria's Khatib asks Turkey for anti-aircraft weaponry

25 November 2012, Sunday /SERVET YANATMA
Sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the elected president of Syria's new opposition coalition, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, asked Turkey to provide more military support to the resistance fighting the Syrian regime forces, and said that the most urgent need is for anti-aircraft missiles.

“The main obstacle for [opposition] fighters is aircraft. They attack people everywhere. If there is something that can help us stop them, it would be great and we ask specifically for that,” al-Khatib, who had talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during a visit to Turkey, said in an interview with Today's Zaman.

Claiming that the military support that started at the beginning of the 20-month offensive is not enough at all, al-Khatib urged the international community to provide rapid military assistance to prevent a complete victory by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

“The military support is not sufficient at all. The international community left the Syrian fighters alone for two years without any real support. We are waiting, but time is so short. If there is no quick support, there may be changes in every area [to the detriment of the armed opposition],” al-Khatib also said.

Al-Khatib also stated that the Syrian opposition is grateful to Turkey for the assistance it provides in all fields, including military assistance supporting the uprising against Assad's military crackdown that has killed over 38,000 people.

“What our Turkish brothers have done is great. They did the best,” al-Khatib remarked, also adding that “we [the Syrian opposition] wish to have more,” from Turkey and from the international community.

Syrian anti-government groups struck a deal to form a new opposition leadership group after more than a week of meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha last month. The new umbrella group, called the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, includes representatives from Syria's disparate factions fighting to topple Assad's regime. It was formally recognized by France, Britain, and Turkey, and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The opposition had been deeply divided for months despite the relentless bloodshed and repeated calls from Western and Arab supporters to create a cohesive and representative leadership that could present a single conduit for foreign aid.

‘Syrian transitional government to be formed after Dec. 12'

The timeline for the establishment of a transitional government has been put off at the request of the international community until after a Friends of Syria group meeting in Morocco on Dec. 12, al-Khatib also noted.

The international community had initially welcomed plans for the establishment of a transitional government to replace the current regime in Syria under the plan of the former Syria peace envoy Kofi Annan put forward in July.

Al-Khatib mentioned that all the armed Syrian opposition groups will unite themselves under a body to be called the “High Military Council” at a Cairo meeting that will take place on Wednesday. The meeting will be attended by the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces and by the Syrian National Coalition. The formation of the High Military Council will mean that the Free Syrian Army and all the other divisions and military groups will unite as one body and establish a command system.

Implying that a full-fledged mechanism that would link the action of the newly formed opposition group and the Free Syrian Army does not yet exist, al-Khatib also announced that such a mechanism would also be established during the Cairo meeting.

“Many of the military [groups] clearly announced their support [SNC]. At the end we will work together because political management or leadership will [provide] the umbrella [over the] military activity,” al-Khatib stated.

Also mentioning that the new coalition he leads has “excellent” relations with SNC, al-Khatib noted that “We work together [with the SNC]. Maybe the [SNC] had some problems before, but they did many positive things, too. The cooperation with them is now good. Everyone has worked very hard to form a coalition. Now we have unified position. This will help us resolve the problems at hand.”

Al-Khatib was elected president of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, and Christian activist George Sabra was selected to be president of the SNC.

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