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Syria Appeals to UN on Al-Qaeda Affiliate - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Rebels from Al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag on the top of a captured Syrian air force helicopter in Idlib province, northern Syria (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN, File)

Rebels from Al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag on the top of a captured Syrian air force helicopter in Idlib province, northern Syria (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN, File)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The recent announcement of a “merger” between Al-Qaeda and the Syrian insurgent group Jabhat Al-Nusra has led the Syrian government to appeal to the UN to sanction the movement.

In a letter to the Security Council, Syria’s foreign ministry called on the body to “fulfill its role in preserving global security” on Thursday.

Previous Security Council resolutions created an Al-Qaeda sanctions committee, which oversees travel bans and the freezing of assets to groups and individuals associated with the terrorist organization.

Jabhat Al-Nusra is already listed as a terrorist organization in the US.

Speaking on Friday, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry said that informal talks had already begun between permanent members of the Security Council about Jabhat Al-Nusra, but stressed that these talks were still at an early stage.

The spokesmen, Philippe Lalliot, added that France would act to prevent “any attempt by the Syrian regime that tries through this to label all the Syrian opposition as terrorists.”

The Syrian government’s move follows an announcement on Wednesday by a leader of Jabhat Al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad Al-Golani, that the group had pledged to follow the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an act that handed the Syrian government a rare propaganda victory in the civil war raging in the country.

In an audio file posted on the internet, Golani said: “The sons of Nusra Front renew their pledge to the Sheikh of Jihad Ayman al-Zawahri and declare obedience”.

This in turn followed an announcement from the leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which stated on Tuesday that it was merging with Jabhat Al-Nusra.

In an attempt to downplay the effect of the announcement on the group’s relations with other Syrian rebels, Golani also said that while it remained “in debt” to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group would continue to operate independently.

He said: “The banner of the Front will remain the same, nothing will change about it even though we are proud of the banner of the [Islamic] State and of those who carry it.”

He also denied that the leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq had consulted him before issuing their declaration.

Other Syrian rebels, including spokesmen for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), denounced the gesture.

Within Syria, government forces are continuing their counteroffensive against rebels in the district of Homs, as new evidence emerges of a possible massacre of civilians in the same province.

According to media reports, much of the fighting has centered on the town of Qusair, close to the Syrian-Lebanese border. The town is also close to the main Damascus-Homs highway, making it a high-priority target for both sides.

The government offensive in the region has led to some of the fiercest fighting seen in the country for months, according to news reports, with Syrian military aircraft carrying out daily attacks in and around the city of Homs

Aside from the fighting, the Syrian Network of Human Rights claims to have obtained footage that shows the aftermath of a massacre of over 120 civilians, including children, in the village of Khirbat Altin, also in the Homs governorate.

At the time of writing, the accuracy of the allegations attached to the graphic footage, which was uploaded onto social media websites on Friday, could not be independently verified.

Elsewhere, the rebels have continued to battle government forces, including the southern province of Deraa, which has been the scene of a string of rebel victories in recent weeks.

There are also reports of fighting in the north-east, around the predominantly-Kurdish town of Qamishli, with claims that fighters affiliated with the FSA have entered the town for the first time since the beginning of the uprising, in order to attack the nearby airport.