02:57 GMT +3 hours29 November 2014
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EU Looks at Options to Support Syrian Opposition

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European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels on Friday stressed the need to support the coalition of opposition groups in Syria in the “most effective way.”

MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) – European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels on Friday stressed the need to support the coalition of opposition groups in Syria in the “most effective way.”

The leaders of 27 EU countries asked the foreign ministers to look "at all options to support and help the opposition and to enable the greater support for the protection of civilians," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement.

European Union leaders also underlined the “gravity of the situation” in Syria and “stressed the need for [President Bashar] Assad to leave office, and for a real political process to take place.”

"We have a moral duty on this issue, where so many innocent lives are being lost," the European Council President told journalists at the end of the two-day summit in Brussels.

The leader of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmed Mouaz Khatib, held talks with the European Union's foreign ministers on Monday. The ministers recognized the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNCROF), the main opposition coalition, as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people.

US President Barack Obama made a similar announcement on Tuesday, a move criticized by Russia.

Moscow, a long-time Assad ally, insists that the Syrian opposition shares the blame for the violence in the country and that political dialogue is the only way of stopping the civil war.

The SNCROF was formed on November 11 in Doha, Qatar, and proclaims itself the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

More than 100 nations, including the United States and Western European countries, declared their support for the opposition coalition on Wednesday at a gathering in Marrakech, Morocco.

Syrian opposition, backed by the West and some Arab countries, is pushing for President Assad’s ouster as the main condition for the settlement of the 20-month-old internal conflict that has already claimed over 40,000 lives, according to human rights monitors.