French President Francois Hollande urged Syria's divided opposition today to form an "inclusive and representative" provisional government, promising that France would recognize it in hope of accelerating the departure of President Bashar Assad's regime as violence escalates. "We are including our Arab partners to accelerate this step," Hollande said. "France will recognize the provisional government of Syria once it is formed." The French leader, clearly frustrated with China and Russia for blocking UN sanctions on Assad, staked out unprecedented terrain to jolt opposition leaders into unity—both anti-Assad fighters on the ground in Syria and exiles working abroad to end his reign.
Hollande's appeal to the opposition underscores a belief in many diplomatic circles that a credible alternative to Assad's regime must take shape first in order to expedite the Syrian leader's exit. But Hollande's statement appeared aimed to give an impetus to the creation of such a government in part because there is no international mandate for stronger action. Echoing similar concerns expressed by President Obama, Hollande said that any use of chemical weapons to repress Syria's people "would provide a legitimate reason for direct intervention by the international community." Abdelbaset Sieda, leader of the Syrian National Council, said recently the group was planning and consulting for a transitional government. But several other opposition groups are known to be making similar plans. (Read more Francois Hollande stories.)