The world's major powers are poised to give full political recognition to the Syrian National Coalition, an opposition bloc, as the fourth conference for the "Friends of the Syrian People" is set to open in Morocco.
More than a hundred government delegates, including from the US, France, Britain and the Gulf countries, are gathering in the Moroccan city of Marrakech on Wednesday to unveil measures to support the newly formed Syrian group.
The meeting comes as the opposition forces in Syria have scored a number of victories against the government of Bashar al-Assad in recent weeks and have intensified a push towards Damascus.
A draft declaration at the meeting states that the members of the Friends of the Syrian People bloc were prepared to recognize the opposition coalition as "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people". It also called on President Asad to "stand aside" in order to allow "a sustainable political transition" process.
On the eve of the talks, Barack Obama, the US president, announced that his government would be recognizing the coalition as Syria's "legitimate representative".
"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
His announcement stopped short of authorizing the US to supply weapons to the opposition, however.
"All indications on the ground signal the end of the regime of Bashar al-Assad," Riad Seif, a leading opposition figure, said. "We expect this meeting to fully recognize the coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people."
Demand for weapons
Fighting has intensified in recent days, with opposition forces claiming they have taken over a large military base near the city of Aleppo, and both sides trading mortar and artillery fire in southern Damascus.
The government forces' firepower is still superior to that of the opposition’s, however, and the latter has repeatedly asked the international community to aid them by providing heavy weapons.
"We are telling the international community that we don't want their military intervention but we want them to supply us with a developed anti-aircraft defense systems," Seif said. "The Syrian people can finish off the battle within weeks if we get this support."
Anti-government activists say that 40,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.
The opposition, dogged by splits and rivalries, as well as a lack of clarity on the command structure of its armed wings, established a more unified political opposition and military command, in a bid to win international support.
France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf states have already granted them formal recognition. The European Union, in a meeting on Monday, moved a step closer towards recognition.
Little in the way of direct military or financial support is expected to be channeled to the coalition at the Morocco meeting, partly because it lacks the ability to act as a provisional government and because Western powers are still wary of backing certain fighters in the opposition ranks.
Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons, close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012.