The president of France has said that his government would recognize a new provisional government Syria and has urged Syrian opposition figures to quickly form one.

“France asks the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government — inclusive and representative — that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria,” Hollande said during the speech to diplomats at the Élysée Palace in Paris.

“France will recognize the provisional government of Syria once it is formed.”

While western and other leaders have been pressuring Bashar al-Assad to step down and end his brutal crackdown against rebels, this is the first time a foreign state has explicitly vowed to officially recognize a new government in Syria.

After 18 months of bloodshed, at least 20,000 people have died in Syria and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.