France on Tuesday became the first Western country to formally recognise Syria’s newly formed opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
The French move was announced by French President Francois Hollande, who used his first news conference since taking office six months ago to formally recognise the group.
“I announce here that France recognises the National Syrian Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and, therefore, as the future provisional government of democratic Syria,” Mr. Hollande said.
Under intense international pressure to form an opposition that includes representatives from the country’s disparate factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the anti-government groups struck a deal on Sunday in Doha to form a coalition headed by former Muslim preacher Mouaz al-Khatib.
The coalition includes representatives from the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which was harshly criticized by many, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for being cut off from rebels fighting the war on the ground and for failing to forge a cohesive and more representative leadership.
France, which has played a leading role in efforts to force Mr. Assad from power, was also the first to recognise the Syrian National Council. Mr. Hollande made no mention of that grouping on Tuesday.