French President Francois Hollande and the new Syrian opposition leader have announced plans to install a new ambassador to represent Syria in France.
The move came after talks on Saturday at the presidential palace in Paris between Hollande and Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib, head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition.
France is the only Western country to have formally recognised the group as the representative of the Syrian people.
The new ambassador is Mounzir Makhous, an academic.
Khatib and his deputies on Friday met in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who indicated he would decide within days whether to officially recognise the new Syrian opposition.
The diplomatic developments came as rebels in the eastern city of al-Boukamal in Deir Ezzor province said they took control of the military airport there, the last bastion of government troops in the city.
“Al-Boukamal is now liberated,” an activist in the city, which borders Iraq, told Al Jazeera.
Clashes in Aleppo
Elsewhere, two rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were reportedly killed in fighting in Aleppo, while a car bomb exploded in Liramun in the northwest of the city, and nearby areas were shelled.
Activists also reported heavy shelling on the town of Rastan in the province of Homs as well as on the old neighbourhoods of central city.
Also on Saturday, a Turkish journalist held by Syrian government troops since August was freed and handed to a group of Turkish opposition MPs following their meeting with al-Assad, media reported.
“I am very happy, I am doing well,” Cuneyt Unal told a press conference in Damascus, a recording of which was aired on Turkish television.
“I can’t wait to get back to my family in Turkey.”
Unal was handed to a delegation of MPs from Turkey’s main opposition party CHP in Damascus after they met with Assad, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Meanwhile, reports emerged that Turkey will formally ask NATO on Monday to set up missiles on its border with Syria due to growing concern about spillover from the conflict in its neighbour.
The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which did not cite its sources, also said on Saturday that up to 170 German soldiers could be deployed as part of the mission.
Beefing up security
Turkey said on Friday it had intensified talks with NATO allies on how to strengthen its 900-km frontier with Syria after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its territory.
“As we have said before, there have been talks between Turkey and NATO and NATO allies on various issues regarding the security risks and challenges and possible responses to issues regarding Turkey-NATO territories,” a Turkish government official said, when asked about the Sueddeutsche Zeitung report.
“Normally we could not reveal the nature of NATO deliberations while they continue,” added the official.
NATO has said it will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey. Turkey has said it is talking to its NATO allies about a possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
A NATO spokeswoman said she could not confirm the report.
“There hasn’t been a request from Turkey. If there is a request from Turkey of course allies will consider it,” she said.