The various factions of the Syrian opposition have signed last night, after intense pressure from the West and Arab states, an agreement to form a united coalition to accelerate the downfall of Bashar al-Assad's regime. The agreement meets the wishes of Arab and Western countries to see the united opposition in an executive body capable of dealing with the international community and to channel aid.
It was signed by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khatib Moaz, who had been elected president of the "National Coalition of Syrian opposition forces and the revolution," and Georges Sabra, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which becomes the main component.
The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attended the signing ceremony. Prominent opposition activist, Riad Seif, a former member of the original initiative to unify the opposition and militant Souheir Atassi, who was instrumental in coordinating the uprising in Syria, have been elected vice-presidents of the new coalition.
"This is an important step towards the fall of the regime," said Riad Hijab, former Syrian prime minister who defected in August. But discussions remained difficult until the end. The SNC, who feared being marginalized, has been under intense international and Arab pressure to bring it to lift its reservations.
The agreement was immediately welcomed by the United States, who has pledged its support for the new coalition. "We look forward to supporting the National Coalition which will pave the way to the end of the bloody regime of Assad as all Syrians deserve a future of peace, justice and democracy," said Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner. France has also given its "full support" to the "national coalition" forces of the Syrian as foreign minister, Laurent Fabius called the agreement between the various factions a "major step. "
Meanwhile, on the ground, fighting was still raging between rebels and soldiers for control of key cities especially near the Turkish border. The Syrian air force has carried out over the weekend strikes against several areas. On the outskirts of Damascus, fighting erupted in Harasta and shells fell on Yalda. The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), an activist group, reported intense artillery fire by the regime forces in the southwest of Damascus.