Britain recognises new Syrian opposition group

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 6:37am

Britain formally recognised a newly-formed opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people yesterday, as the chief of the UN said he feared Syria could become a "regional battleground".

Britain's recognition of the opposition National Coalition came as fighting raged across Syrian flashpoints, including in the northern town of Ras al-Ain where a watchdog said dozens died in clashes between rebels and a Kurdish militia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said meanwhile that Nato member Ankara, a sharp critic of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, would formally ask the alliance for Patriot missiles to protect its border with Syria.

In announcing Britain's recognition of the National Coalition formed in Doha on November 11, Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament he took the decision after he met leaders of the bloc in London on Friday and they assured him that they have backing inside Syria and would respect human rights.

Hague said he has asked the group to appoint a political representative to Britain and he announced an increase in aid and support for the coalition.

The move comes one week after France became the first Western country to recognise the coalition and after the European Union on Monday said it "considers them legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people".

But even as momentum for recognising a credible opposition to Assad gathered steam, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to Cairo, cautioned there was a potential for the conflict to spin out of control.

"We are deeply concerned about the continued militarisation of the conflict, horrendous violations of human rights and the risk of Syria turning into a regional battleground as the violence intensifies," Ban said.