The French President François Hollande yesterday called on Syria's opposition to form a provisional government, saying France would recognise it once such a government is formed.
The announcement from Hollande, in a speech to France's ambassadors, amounts to an attempt to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime amid escalating bloodshed in Syria.
Syria's opposition remains badly fragmented, and it is far from clear whether such a provisional government could be formed anytime soon. But Hollande's statement, believed to be the first of its kind, appeared aimed to give an impetus to the creation of such a government.
"France asks the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government – inclusive and representative – that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria," the French leader said.
"We are including our Arab partners to accelerate this step," he told hundreds of diplomats and dignitaries at the presidential palace. "France will recognise the provisional government of Syria once it is formed."
Hollande also took issue with Russian and Chinese reticence about reaching tougher language against Assad's regime, saying "their attitude weakens our ability to carry out the mandate conferred on us by the UN charter".
Syria's opposition has been plagued by divisions and infighting since the start of the uprising last year, and a formation of a transitional government is fraught with difficulties.
Abdelbaset Sieda, the leader of the main umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said recently that the group was making plans and consultations for a transitional government. However, several other opposition groups are known to be making similar plans, including a new opposition alliance headed by veteran opposition figure Haitham Maleh.
The call came amid continued fighting in the country. In Damascus, a Syrian military helicopter caught fire and crashed after it was apparently hit during fighting between government forces and rebels, an activist group said. State media confirmed the crash.