x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Assad: Arab League 'lacks legitimacy' after handing Syria's seat to opposition

The Arab League last month granted the opposition rebel Syrian National Coalition grouping Syria's seat at the beginning during a session in Qatar attended by key rebel official and former Coalition chief Moaz Al Khatib.

DAMASCUS // Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has lashed out at the Arab League and its decision to hand Syria's seat to the opposition, saying the body "lacks legitimacy", according to comments published yesterday.

The Arab League last month granted the opposition rebel Syrian National Coalition grouping Syria's seat at the beginning during a session in Qatar attended by key rebel official and former Coalition chief Moaz Al Khatib.

"The Arab League lacks legitimacy. It's a League that represents the Arab states, not the Arab people, so it can't grant or retract legitimacy," Mr Al Assad said in extracts from an interview with Turkish media published on the presidency's Facebook page. "Real legitimacy is not accorded by organisations or foreign officials or other country ... legitimacy is that which is granted by the people," Assad said. "All these theatrics have no value in our eyes," he added.

The interview, with Turkey's Ulusal television and Aydinlik newspaper, was conducted on Tuesday and will be aired in full today, the presidency said. In extracts published on Wednesday, Mr Al Assad accused Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not having said "a single word of truth since the beginning of the crisis in Syria". Damascus has regularly accused Ankara of financing, training and arming rebels fighting troops loyal to Mr Al Assad.The UN says Turkey currently hosts more than 260,000 Syrian refugees.

The UN claims more than 70,000 people have been killed in a spiralling war that broke out after the army unleashed a crackdown on a peaceful revolt which morphed into an armed revolt. The Assad regime also warned Jordan yesterday that it was "playing with fire" by allowing the United States and other countries to train and arm rebels on its territory.

Jordan, the US's closest ally in the Arab world, has long been nervous Mr Al Assad's regime could retaliate for supporting the rebels. The warning carried on state media may add to those jitters, though Jordanian government officials downplayed it as "mere speculation by the Syrian media". Syrian state television said leaks in US media show Jordan "has a hand in training terrorists and then facilitating their entry into Syria". State radio accused Jordan of "playing with fire".

A front-page editorial in the government daily Al Thawra accused Amman of adopting a policy of "ambiguity" by training the rebels while at the same time publicly insisting on a "political solution" to the Syrian crisis.

"Jordan's attempt to put out the flame from the leaked information will not help as it continues with its mysterious policy, which brings it closer to the volcanic crater," the paper said.