Saudi to recognize, fund SNC; Russia rejects Syria resolution
Published Friday, January 27, 2012
Saudi Arabia will recognize the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the "official representative" of the Syrian people amid a joint Western-Gulf Arab push to have President Bashar Assad removed, a senior member of the opposition group said on Friday.
"Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told an SNC delegation he met in Cairo last week the kingdom will recognize the Council as the official representative of the Syrian people," SNC executive council member Ahmad Ramadan told Kuwait's Al-Rai newspaper.
Ramadan did not specify when Saudi will make the call, or whether it will be backed by its Gulf Arab allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
It was also reported in the UK's The Times newspaper on Friday that Saudi Arabia and Qatar will begin funding the SNC as well as armed groups fighting the regime.
Gulf Arab states have taken a leading role in trying to oust the Syrian president, having this week announced the withdrawal of their members from the Arab League monitoring team in Syria.
Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani is to officially present a Western-backed plan to UN Security Council ambassadors in New York that will request Assad hand over power to his deputy, while a unity government is formed to oversee a full transition.
The improving ties between the GCC and SNC has aroused concerns among some corners of the Syrian opposition that fear Gulf states will turn Syria into a battleground against arch rival Iran.
The GCC oppose the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring protests engulfing the region, and sent troops into neighboring Bahrain last year to crush a similar uprising there.
It is also unclear how representative the Istanbul-based SNC is of the protesters within Syria, and the level of contact between the internal revolution and external opposition groups.
Meanwhile, Russia has preempted the West and the GCC by already declaring its proposed UN resolution as "unacceptable."
A senior Russian diplomat rejected the plan because it does not take Moscow's position into account, the Itar-Tass news agency reported on Friday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov's remarks were the latest sign that Russia will push hard for changes in the Western-Gulf draft resolution.
The UN draft, which was expected to be distributed to the Security Council later on Friday, contains "no fundamental consideration for our position" and is missing "key aspects that are fundamental to us," Itar-Tass quoted Gatilov as saying.
Russia has previously said it will veto any UN resolution that seeks to impose sanctions on Syria or justify military action.
Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted resolution in October, while the West remains adamant in its push to have Assad removed from power.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)