Britain Urges EU States to Fully Recognize Syrian Opposition Group

Syrian opposition group leader Moaz al-Khatib to meet EU foreign ministers Monday to discuss civil war, amid Syrian rebel takeover of key areas near Turkish border.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged other European countries on Monday to follow Britain in fully recognizing the Syrian opposition group, led by Moaz al-Khatib. Al-Khatib, is scheduled to meet Monday in Brussels with European Union foreign ministers to discuss the civil war.

"We've given our full recognition to them, we hope that other countries will do so at the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh," Hague said ahead of talks between EU foreign ministers and al-Khatib in Brussels.

Hague did not rule out a partial lifting of the Syrian arms embargo to help the rebels when it comes up for renewal in three months, but said the step would require careful consideration.

Syrian rebels said Monday that they had full control of areas linking two key northern provinces, which will ease movement of supplies near the Turkish border area. "Controlling the Sheikh Suleiman base enabled our rebels to control the area that links Idlib and Aleppo province, thus opening more roads for supplies," rebel commander Abu Omar al-Halabi told DPA.

Rebels claimed on Sunday to have seized the Sheikh Suleiman army base, which stretches over around two square kilometers of rocky hills and is about 25 kilometers from Aleppo city.

They said they confiscated a large amount of heavy and medium weapons and detained dozens of army personnel.  
Battles continued near the Damascus airport and areas on the outskirts of the capital, but no major advances were reported for both sides, activists said.

Meanwhile, nine judges and prosecutors have defected to the opposition in the latest setback for the regime, activists said.