Opposition fail to get Syria Arab League seat

SNC unable to convince body to hand it Syria’s seat but will attend ministerial meetings on an “exceptional basis”.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has made only marginal gains at a meeting of the Arab League, despite two days of intense lobbying.

The 22-member summit, which concluded in Kuwait City on Wednesday, decided to allow the SNC to participate in ministerial meetings on an “exceptional basis”.

But the league stopped short on Wednesday of granting the group the official recognition it sought to be Syria’s sole legitimate representative.

Nor did the body accede to SNC requests for weapons to be sent to rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Nabil al-Araby, the league’s general-secretary, said Syria’s seat had been kept empty during the summit because “the SNC is not a government and council seats are for governments”. 

He said this was the reason he “was against giving the SNC a seat” at last year’s League meeting in Cairo.

Handover rejected

Louay Safi, a spokesman for the SNC, appeared to confirm reports that Egypt had aligned itself with Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq in rejecting the handover of Syrian representation to the SNC. “Egypt had reservations,” he told Al Jazeera.

Safi told reporters: “We are surprised that Nabil al-Araby is still trying to reach a decision in a way that is not positive but we are not going to come to any conclusions.”

On Tuesday, Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of the SNC, criticised the Arab League’s decision to keep the seat empty, saying it was a message to Assad that “he can kill, and that the seat will wait for him to resolve his war”.

Al Jazeera reported earlier that Lebanon had threatened to pull out of the summit if the SNC were granted the Syria seat.

The Lebanese finance minister tweeted during the opening session that he stormed out of the session during Jarba’s speech “in line with his convictions and principles”.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari disagreed with the access granted to the SNC, telling Reuters news agency: “Where is their sovereignty? Where is their authority? They are not a state, they don’t have a government even.”

Following the declaration, Safi said: “The decisions of the summit are not against the opposition – they maintained recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

According to a declaration issued following the summit, the bloc condemned the “mass killing” by the Syrian government, insisting that a political solution to the three-year civil war remained a priority.

The summit did not explicitly address the diplomatic row between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their envoys from Doha “to protect their security and stability”.  

The next Arab League Summit is due to be held next spring in Egypt. 

Additional reporting by Dahlia Kholaif and Jassim Mater in Kuwait City.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies