Jarba: Empty Syria seat strengthens Assad

Head of Syrian National Coalition criticises lack of opposition representation at Arab League summit.

The opposition was initially approved to replace Assad's government in the bloc but the decision changed [Reuters]

Kuwait City – The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, has criticised an Arab League decision barring the opposition from filling his country’s seat at the bloc’s summit.

Speaking at the Arab League summit on Tuesday, he said the decision undermines the rebels’ position in the three-year Syrian conflict.

The SNC, which was initially approved to replace the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the representative of Syria in the 22-member bloc, was denied that right after reservations from Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria.

“Let me say, quite frankly, that keeping Syria’s seat empty in your midst sends a clear message to Assad that he can kill, and that the seat will wait for him to resolve his war,” Jarba said as he addressed Arab leaders and officials.

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war that has killed at least 130,000 people and left millions displaced. Violence erupted in March 2011 when peaceful protests demanding the end of Assad’s rule were met by a brutal crackdown.

“I do not ask you for a declaration of war, but I ask you that you support our cause and find a solution guaranteeing the interests of our people and our country,” Jarba said.

He renewed his call for Arab leaders to exert pressure on the international community “to commit to its pledges to provide sophisticated weapons to our revolutionaries” and increase humanitarian support.

Low expectations

However, the possibility of a concrete outcome at this summit is slim as pressing topics on the agenda, including Syria, Palestine and others are being overshadowed by unprecedented rifts among the Arab League members.

Referring to these disagreements, Jarba said: “[The battle against Assad] is our common battle, and I know that disagreements between brothers fade when homes are violated; your homes, dignity and lives in Syria are violated.”

Syrian opposition spokesman Louay Safi told Al Jazeera that there were some “reassuring ” talks of a possible emergency meeting to take place between Arab foreign ministers to discuss Syria’s vacant chair.

He called for arming the rebels since he said a political solution was impossible to reach, citing the lack of seriousness on the part of the Assad regime.

“The least that can be done is to arm Syrian villages with anti-aircraft missiles to deter barrel bombs used by the regime,” he said.

Asked whether this could happen as an outcome of the summit, Safi said it was an international decision but Arab countries could help by exerting necessary pressure.

Source: Al Jazeera