Syrian National Dialogue conference held in Tehran; EU recognises new Syrian opposition coalition; Islamist rebel factions reject Western-backed opposition coalition
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  • Reports noted that the 27-nation European Union has formally recognised the newly formed Syrian opposition National Coalition as the “sole representative of the Syrian people”. The move came after France became the first Western country to recognise the coalition last week, followed by Italy. The US has said that it is monitoring progress of the coalition and will decide whether to recognise the body. Separately, the NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that the NATO would urgently consider any formal request from Turkey for deployment of surface-to-air missiles along the Turkish border with Syria. 1 Turkey and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have also recognised the body.

    In another development, the increasingly powerful Syrian Islamist rebel factions have rejected the Western-backed opposition coalition and unilaterally declared an Islamic state in Aleppo last week. The move is a clear indication of the deep splits between those seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad. As the violence continues in Syria, activist report that at least 40,000 people have killed so far in the 20-month conflict.2

    In other development, according to reports, the Syrian National Dialogue Conference was opened in Tehran on November 18 by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi under the title “No for Violence, Yes for Dialogue and Democracy”. Around 170 people took part in the event and the majority of them Syrians. The non-Syrians included Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, the Chinese ambassador in Tehran, head of the Iraqi National Coalition, and head of the Association of Lebanon’s Muslim Scholars. The conference was based on an Iranian initiative and rejected any foreign solution to the Syrian crisis, instead supporting a political solution “that complies with international accords and the opinions of the Syrian people”. The participants also rejected military intervention in Syria and stressed the need to prevent arms reaching militants inside the country. 3