Syria opposition takes seat at Arab League summit

  • The leader of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has taken the country's official seat at the Arab League summit in Qatar.

    The delegation led by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who announced last week he would step down as head of the opposition coalition, was applauded on Tuesday as it formally assumed the seat.

    Khatib described the move as "part of the restoration of legitimacy" of which Syrians had "long been robbed".

    He was joined by the SNC’s vice-presidents, George Sabra and Suheir Atassi, along with recently elected interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto.

    The decision to grant the Arab League seat to the Syrian opposition coalition, made by the Arab League’s foreign ministers earlier this month, is seen as a symbolic but key milestone in the two-year-old Syrian conflict.

    The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 in response to the uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, which has evolved into a civil war that has killed 70,000 people and displaced a further million.

    Khatib announced his resignation on Sunday, a decision that has been rejected by the coalition.

    His announcement came a week after the SNC chose U.S.-based Islamist Ghassan Hitto to lead the alternative administration, which is meant to govern areas controlled by rebels.

    It has been reported that Khatib believed Islamists and foreign powers such as Qatar influenced the SNC’s decision.