Arab League meet in Cairo
A view of the Arab League foreign ministers meeting on Syria in Cairo, November 12, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo on Monday to discuss the escalating violence in Syria and whether to back a newly-created opposition coalition.

Israeli tanks on Monday destroyed a Syrian artillery battery after a Syrian shell landed near a military post on the occupied Golan Heights, highlighting the risk of Syria's civil war sparking a wider conflict.

Also on Monday, a Syrian government aircraft carried out airstrikes in the rebel-held town of Ras al-Ain in the north-east near the Turkish border, killing at least 21 people and wounding 70, activists said.

Turkish media said a Turkish soldier and two civilians were wounded during clashes between the Syrian army and rebels near the border.

The airstrikes in Ras al-Ain shattered windows in the Turkish village of Ceylanpinar across the border. Five Turkish civilians were killed last month when a Syrian shell landed in Akcakale, another Turkish border town, prompting Turkey to hit targets inside Syria.

International envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahim is expected to brief the Arab League foreign ministers Monday about his efforts to stop the violence, which opposition groups says has killed at least 37,000 people.

The Cairo talks come a day after opposition groups announced the formation of a broad-based coalition against the government of President Bashar Assad.

The newly created alliance, called the National Coalition of the Syrian Powers of Revolution and Opposition, has drawn backing from regional and international powers.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Monday it will recognize Syria's newly formed opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Syrian opposition groups struck a deal in Doha on Sunday to form a broad coalition to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

"The GCC declares its recognition of the Syrian national coalition as the legitimate representative of the brotherly Syrian people," Abdulatif al-Zayani, the GCC's secretary general, said in a statement.

The United States, which put pressure on splintered opposition groups to unify their ranks, has called the coalition a "vitally important step."

"This offers a credible, cohesive leadership, reflective of Syrians inside your country and outside," said Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. "We want to work with and cooperate fully with your new organization, because we share the goal of Bashar Assad leaving power."

Germany hoped the coalition will provide a "credible" alternative to al-Assad's regime.

"I hope that with the National Coalition of the Syrian Powers of Revolution and Opposition will result in a credible political alternative to the regime of Assad," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin.

The foreign ministers of the Arab League and the European Union are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Tuesday to consider how they the can support the new opposition bloc.

The Syrian opposition Sunday unveiled the coalition after marathon talks in the Qatari capital Doha. They pledged to set up a transitional government after the new grouping gains international recognition.