Hague: Giving arms to Syrian rebels cannot be ruled out

 

William Hague: "You can reach the point eventually where humanitarian need is so great... that you have to do something new in order to save lives"

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Britain cannot rule out providing arms to the Syrian opposition in the future, Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

The situation in Syria now is "too dangerous to the peace and security of that entire region, and thereby to the world, to ignore it", he said.

His words come after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Britain in the Sunday Times of bullying and naivety over the conflict in his country.

Mr Hague described Mr Assad's interview as "delusional".

About 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising that started almost two years ago. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

The foreign secretary is due to announce to Parliament this week an aid package to assist those fighting against the Syrian government.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Hague said the package would be given "directly to the opposition" and would include "more equipment to help save lives".

He added that he would not be announcing a provision of arms this week, but he could not "rule anything out for the future".

Start Quote

I think this (interview with Bashar al-Assad) will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary

"If this is going to go on for months or years and more, tens of thousands of people are going to die, and countries like Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan are going to be destabilised, it is not something we can ignore."

In his interview, Mr Assad dismissed any suggestion that Britain could help to resolve the conflict.

"We do not expect an arsonist to be a firefighter," he said.

"To be frank, Britain has played a famously unconstructive role in our region on different issues for decades, some say for centuries... The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of bullying and hegemony...

"How can we ask Britain to play a role while it is determined to militarise the problem? How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists?"

In response to Mr Assad's comments, Mr Hague said the Syrian president was a man "presiding over this slaughter".

He added: "The message to him is that we, Britain, are the people sending food and shelter and blankets to the help the people driven from their homes and families in his name.

"We're the people sending medical supplies to try and look after people injured and abused by soldiers working for this man.

"I think this will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times."

Humanitarian aid

Mr Hague said agreements were made in the European Union last week on a series of amendments to the arms embargo which now allowed the UK to send a wider range of "non-lethal equipment" to Syria.

In response to being asked if this included military equipment, Mr Hague told the BBC's Sophie Raworth: "We can now send more."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said they would be "adding to the assistance, to the equipment that we provide to help the opposition, to help the National Coalition".

The spokeswoman said the assistance so far included "training on political strategy, communications, gaining evidence of human rights abuses and training for journalists in reporting".

Assistance also included providing communications equipment, water purification equipment and power generators.

Separately the Department for International Development has so far provided £139.5m in humanitarian aid to Syria which includes food packages, blankets, clothing and medical aid.

 

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  • rate this
    -21

    Comment number 248.

    Its so sad reading lots of comments on here. We are all human beings where is the humanity in leaving them to suffer. Unbelievable selfishness not willing to help people attain the same freedoms that allow you to leave these very comments. If you truly believe in freedom of speech and social justice you should be willing to sacrifice your life so the others may have theirs free from oppression.

  • rate this
    +60

    Comment number 42.

    We have to take money away from the welfare system because we can't afford it,so we have people losing their homes & having to use food banks. We have people freezing to death in their own homes because they can't afford the heating. We have benefits claimants vilified as high living scroungers, who don't deserve their £70 odd per week. War & foreign uprising? Pour £billions into it! Hypocrites!

  • rate this
    -23

    Comment number 30.

    Genocide is being conducted in Syria.

    Civilized societies, as part of a humanitarian responsibility and a responsibility to uphold international law should intervene cautiously with the backing of the UN (or not in extreme circumstances).

    The UK is a comparatively rich nation - we stumped up £1 trillion to support the bankers, only part of which has been repaid.

    Instigate a no-fly zone now.

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 15.

    Fortunately we are changing our attitude towards war. It is no longer a vote winner and governments know this. What used to be a political tool to drum up nationalist support no longer works.

    Tax payers have to fund these war games and we are sick of paying for something that results in mass killings.

    Defending your own country against invasion is one thing but going abroad to invade others?

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 11.

    We live on a very small planet. While it’s not right to sit still while Assad and the rebels slaughter tens of thousands of people a mere 3,000 miles away, I can’t see how picking sides could end at all well.

    Yes, give aid, medical, food, but as soon as we start handing out weaponry, we are getting too far involved that could have severe repercussions no matter which side wins the war.

 
 

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