Syria’s Jarba calls for strategic ties with U.S.

Photo: Syria’s Jarba calls for strategic ties with U.S. / Arab World

Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba told Al Arabiya News Channel ahead of an expected meeting with U.S. President Barak Obama that he backed forming strategic ties with Washington and the establishment of a no-fly zone to safeguard civilian lives from Syrian army airstrikes, Al Arabiya reported.

"We are the third way to this regime ... and the extremist [factions] ... There is the possibility for a strategic relationship [with Washington] so that we can be the third way," he told Al Arabiya in an exclusive interview that will be aired in its entirety later this week.

When asked whether he would prefer the establishment of a no-fly zone over arming Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles, Jarba said: "A No-fly zone."

The Syrian air force has repeatedly used "barrel bombs" on various Syrian cities as part of a government offensive against rebel strongholds. The use of the improvised weapon has had devastating effects on civilian populations and drawn international condemnation.

Jarba, the president of the Syrian National Coalition, arrived in the United States early last week and has held talks with senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry. The Syrian opposition leader is also expected to meet with Obama.

His visit to the United States coincided with a U.S. decision to recognize the main opposition group as a diplomatic foreign mission.

In a statement, Jarba said the new status was a diplomatic blow to the legitimacy of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Jarba, in his interview with Al Arabiya, also slammed what he said was the "world's silence" on the role of Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict that has killed 150,000 people since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

"The talk always centers on ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] without any mention of Iran and Hezbollah's terrorism," he said.

The Damascus regime, backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah and fighters from Iran and Iraq, has been battling against Syrian rebels seeking the ouster of Assad who has ruled Syria since 2000. Assad took power following the death of his father Hafez al-Assad, who had been in power since 1970.

Assad is running in the upcoming presidential election which will likely see his return to power.

The election, which will be staged despite the ongoing civil conflict, has been described as a 'farce' by the opposition.

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