Empty summit seat emboldens Assad: Syria's Jarba

KUWAIT CITY – Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba called on Arab nations to hand Syria's Arab League seat over to the country's opposition, saying the failure to do so only served to embolden the Bahsar al-Assad regime.

"Keeping Syria's seat empty… sends a clear message to al-Assad, which he interprets as, 'Kill, and the seat awaits you after you finish your war," Jarba said in a keynote speech at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Kuwait.

He also called on Arab countries to hand over the Syrian embassies in their respective capitals to opposition representatives after the Syrian regime had "lost legitimacy."

"I don't want you to declare war, but rather support our cause and find a solution to it," he said.

Jarba also urged Arab leaders to pressure the international community to provide opposition fighters with arms and refugees with humanitarian aid, pointing to the recent fall of two strategic towns to regime forces backed by Hezbollah fighters.

An Arab diplomat on Monday attributed the decision not to hand Syria's Arab League seat over to the Syrian opposition to "major differences" among certain Arab countries.

An opposition group inside Syria had earlier sent a letter to the Arab League asserting that the Syrian National Coalition – which spearheads the fight against the regime in Damascus – did not represent all of the Syrian opposition, the diplomatic source said.

The opposition inside Syria, which includes several opposition figures, has been accused of being allied to the al-Assad regime, especially after some of its members assumed ministerial posts in Syria's recently formed government.

League representatives had locked horns earlier over proposals to give Syria's seat in the pan-Arab body, which has remained vacant for the last two years, to the opposition coalition.  

The Arab diplomat said Algeria had called for omitting the proposal from a league resolution that is expected to be endorsed by Arab leaders at the summit.

He said Iraq and Egypt had seconded the Algerian proposal, whereas Saudi Arabia and Qatar had insisted on mentioning the proposal in the resolution.

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