French President Francois Hollande has called on Syria’s opposition to form a provisional government, saying that France would recognise such a government.
The announcement, in a speech to France’s ambassadors, amounts to an attempt to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime amid escalating bloodshed in the country.
Syria’s opposition remains badly fragmented, and it is far from clear whether such a provisional government could be formed any time soon.
But Mr Hollande’s statement, believed to be the first of its kind, appeared aimed at giving an impetus to the creation of such a government.
“France asks the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government - inclusive and representative – that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria,” Mr Hollande said.
“We are including our Arab partners to accelerate this step,” he told hundreds of diplomats and dignitaries at the presidential palace. “France will recognise the provisional government of Syria once it is formed.”
Mr Hollande also took issue with Russian and Chinese reticence about reaching tougher language against the Assad regime, saying “their attitude weakens our ability to carry out the mandate conferred on us by the UN charter”.
Syria’s opposition has been plagued by divisions and infighting since the start of the uprising last year, and a formation of a transitional government is fraught with difficulties.
Abdelbaset Sieda, the leader of main umbrella opposition group the Syrian National Council, said recently that the group was making plans and consultations for a transitional government.
However, several other opposition groups are known to be making similar plans, including a new opposition alliance headed by veteran opposition figure Haitham Maleh.