DAMASCUS: Syria will retaliate against any country that recognizes the opposition National Council, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Sunday.
"We will take significant measures against any country that recognizes this illegitimate council," Muallem told a news conference, as the newly formed opposition group lobbied for support in Cairo.
Formed in Istanbul at the end of August, the Syrian National Council unites all the major known factions opposing Assad’s rule, both inside and outside Syria.
It includes the Local Coordination Committees (LLC), an activist network spurring protests in Syria, the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood as well as Kurdish and Assyrian groups.
One of its members, Kurdish leader Meshaal Tamo, was assassinated on Friday, sparking the condemnation of the United States, France, the European Union and Turkey.
Damascus blamed the assassination on a "terrorist" group.
"There are groups carrying out acts of violence in Syria and who have killed a great number of martyrs. The West speaks of a peaceful revolution and does not admit these groups exist but arms them anyhow," Muallem said.
The minister blamed an "armed terrorist group" for Tamo’s assassination and stressed the Kurdish leader had also "stood against foreign intervention in Syria."
Asked about Damascus’ diplomatic relations with Ankara, Muallem said: "Syria will not stay with its arms crossed. If Turkey throws as a flower, we will send them one back."
Ties between the two neighbors have become increasingly strained since Turkey began hosting gatherings of Syrian dissidents and calling on Damascus to introduce reforms.
The minister’s statement comes a day after Ankara slammed "the loathsome" assassination of activist Tamo as well as attacks against leading opposition figures in Syria.
"We… strongly condemn the attempts aiming to suppress the Syrian opposition and the increase in attacks targeting main representatives of the opposition," the Turkish foreign ministry said.
"Turkey expects the Syrian government to realize as soon as possible that practices of violence aiming to suppress the Syrian opposition will not reverse the course of history," it said in a statement.
Syrian security forces killed at least two people on Saturday when they opened fire on a crowd of more than 50,000 mourners who took part in Tamo’s funeral procession, which turned into a rally against Assad’s regime, activists said.
Damascus then closed one of its border gates with Turkey and barred Turkish nationals from entering Syria following the bloody clashes in Qamishli, where Tamo’s funeral was observed, Anatolia news agency reported.
The United Nations estimates at least 2,900 people have been killed since Syria launched its brutal crackdown on dissent in mid-March, including at least 187 children.
The United States on Friday charged that Assad’s regime was escalating its tactics against the opposition with bold attacks on its leaders while the LCC in side Syria accused it of trying to "physically eliminate" top dissidents.
SNC in Cairo
The Syrian National Council is courting foreign recognition and plans to hold a meeting to elect its leadership, a member of the exile group’s delegation to Cairo, told Egypt’s official MENA news agency.
The delegation planned to meet Egyptian activists and party representatives as 90 members of the Syrian National Council-led opposition met in Stockholm to strategize their struggle against Assad.
Yasser Najjar, a member of the delegation, told MENA that the delegation sought support for the recognition of the SNC, after which the exile group would hold a meeting to elect a leadership.
Ismail Al-Khalidi, a member of the council, told the news agency that "technical problems" had delayed such a meeting in Cairo, which he said would be convened "immediately after" the unspecified problems were resolved.
Moscow said on Saturday it will receive Syrian opposition politicians on Tuesday for unofficial talks and that it also expected a visit from delegates of the SNC later in the month, without giving a date.
Meanwhile, Syrian embassies in Europe, have become the focal point of angry demonstrators, with a group of 30 protesters storming the Syrian embassy overnight in the latest attack.