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Syria

EU edges towards recognizing Syria opposition

The EU has moved closer towards fully endorsing the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, Germany booted out staff from the Syrian embassy in a sign of further deteriorating relations.

On Monday, the European Union made a step towards full recognition of the Syrian opposition, led by Moaz al-Khatib. The EU fell short of making a full endorsement, however.

EU foreign ministers recognized al-Khatib's council as "legitimate representatives of the Syrian people."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also commented on the ideal timing of the move.

"Shortly ahead of this meeting of the Friends of Syria, the EU has given another clear signal of the upgrade and support of the coalition," Westerwelle said.

"I think it is the best timing," he added. "I think it will be an important measure to promote the erosion of the Assad regime."

Previously, the EU had merely accepted the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as representatives of the "aspirations" of citizens.

EU executives also announced the organization's intention to boost its humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees by over 30 million euros ($39 million). That would raise the total that the EU has pledged to the war-torn country to over 310 million euros.

Embassy expulsion

Earlier on Monday, Germany expelled four Syrian embassy employees as ties between the two countries continued to deteriorate.

Westerwelle said it was a "clear sign that we are reducing relations with the Assad regime to an absolute minimum."

"We are counting on the national coalition growing more stable and developing as soon as possible functioning institutions for the political transition," he added.

Westerwelle did not comment on the timing of the decision, however, nor on whether specific events had triggered it.

In accordance with diplomatic protocol, the staff will have to leave Germany by Thursday. The expulsions are not the first: Germany kicked the Syrian ambassador out in May after the Houla massacre north of Homs, which left over 100 people dead. Britain, France, Italy and Spain took similar actions.

sej/mkg (dpa, AFP)