DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council recognized the new broad-based Syrian opposition group Monday as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, the first formal endorsement of the opposition group that seeks to topple President Bashar Assad.
Syrian anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday after more than a week of meetings in Qatar. They were under intense international pressure to form a new opposition leadership that will include representatives from the country's disparate factions fighting to topple Assad's regime. The deal is backed by the U.S. and other Western countries.
The opposition has been deeply divided for months despite the relentless bloodshed in Syria that has left more than 36,000 people killed and repeated calls from their Western and Arab supporters to create a cohesive and representative leadership that could serve as a conduit for foreign aid.
In its statement, the GCC said it will offer "support and endorsement to this entity to realize the aspirations and hopes of the Syrian people." The council said it hoped the new body will be a step toward quick political transfer of power and put an end to the bloodshed. It called for Arab and international recognition of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, the new body.
GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said the Gulf states hope the opposition has taken "a step toward quick political transfer of power" in Syria.
The GCC is made up of Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, the president of the new coalition, Maath al-Khatib, and top opposition figure George Sabra flew to Cairo on the Qatari foreign minister's plane for meetings with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to push for recognition.
In the meeting with Elaraby, an official who attended the meeting said Qatar's foreign minister discussed replacing the Syrian regime's suspended membership status with the newly formed opposition coalition body. Al-Khatib and Sabra also addressed a meeting of Arab foreign ministers.
The Arab League official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said their participation in the meetings is not a formal Arab League recognition of the opposition group yet. The official said the issue is divisive among the 22 member states.