July 23, 2013 (TSR) – The foreign-backed Syria opposition chief Ahmad Jarba arrived in Paris on Tuesday for a two-day visit aimed at convincing France to boost its support for militant groups.
Jarba, accompanied on the trip by Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief Selim Idriss and other militant groups’ leaders, was to meet President Francois Hollande on Wednesday.
It was Jarba’s first visit to France since he was elected head of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition on July 6.
After France, Jarba who is a Saudi-linked member, was to head to New York for meetings at the United Nations. Britain said it had convened an informal meeting of the 15-nation Security Council, including Russia and China, with the opposition leadership on Friday.
French officials said talks were also being planned for the militant groups with London and Berlin.
A French diplomatic source said Idriss was expected to press the terrorist groups’ demands for Western arms, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
The terrorist groups’ Western backers have been skeptical of supplying weapons to the militants, amid fears they could fall into the hands of radical militants.
But the diplomatic source said Paris would be insisting in the talks on the “political perspective” of resolving Syria’s civil war.
“First of all they are coming to meet the president to explain who they are, what is their strategy, what they want to do with the Coalition, what they want to do with Syria but also with the opposition,” the source said.
The diplomatic source said the delegation would be looking to show that “they represent an alternative that respects civil and democratic rights”.
The meetings come amid a deadlock in efforts to convene a follow-up to last year’s Geneva conference on establishing a transitional government.
The military battle is also in stalemate, with the UN saying up to 100,000 people mostly civilians and security forces have been killed since clashes started in March 2011.