Syrian opposition representatives took the countrys seat for the first time at an Arab League summit that opened in Qatar on Tuesday,a significant diplomatic boost for the forces fighting President Bashar Assads regime.
In a ceremonious entrance accompanied by applause,a delegation led by Mouaz al-Khatib,the former president of the main opposition alliance the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition – took the seats assigned for Syria at the invitation of Qatars emir,Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
The decision for the opposition to take Syrias seat was made at recommendation of Arab foreign ministers earlier this week in Doha.
The Arab League in 2011 suspended the Syrian governments membership in the organization in punishment for the regimes crackdown on opponents.
The Qatari ruler,who chairs the summit,said the Syrian opposition deserves this representation because of the popular legitimacy they have won at home and the broad support they won abroad and the historic role they have assumed in leading the revolution and preparing for building the new Syria.
The diplomatic triumph and Qatars praise,however,could not conceal the disarray within the top ranks of the Syrian opposition.
Besides al-Khatib,the Syrian delegation included Ghassan Hitto,recently elected prime minister of a planned interim government to administer rebel-held areas in Syria,and two prominent opposition figures,George Sabra and Suheir Atassi.
Addressing the gathering,al-Khatib thanked the Arab League for granting the seat to the opposition. It is part of the restoration of legitimacy that the people of Syria have long been robbed of, he said.
In Damascus,the government Tuesday blasted the Leagues move to allow the opposition to take its seat at the Doha summit,portraying it a selling-out of Arab identity to please Israel and the US.