Syria conflict: UK recognises opposition, says William Hague


Foreign Secretary William Hague makes the official announcement

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the UK has decided to recognise the Syrian opposition coalition.

He told MPs the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was the "sole legitimate representative" of the Syrian people.

He said they were now a "credible" alternative to the Assad government.

In the absence of a diplomatic solution, he told MPs the UK would not rule out any action - subject to international law - to save lives.

Up to 30,000 people have been killed in the 18-month conflict, the UK believes.

Those trying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's government moved closer to a united front when the rival leaders of Syria's rebels formed the coalition after months of bitter division.

At a meeting last week, Britain urged the newly formed coalition of opposition groups to put forward a clear plan for political transition in Syria.

'Growing support'

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Hague said the Syrian opposition would be invited to appoint a political representative to the UK and would be given £1.6m to help with communications equipment.

Start Quote

A credible alternative to the Assad regime is emerging that has the growing support of the Arab League, the European Union, the United States and an increasing number of other countries.”

End Quote William Hague UK Foreign Secretary

The UK will also offer assistance to help the coalition set up political and humanitarian structures and deploy a "stabilisation response" team in Syria to help provide basic services to people in opposition-controlled areas.

Mr Hague said the decision to recognise the opposition was taken after consultation with European partners and after its leaders offered "assurances" about their commitment to uphold human rights and work for a democratic future at Friday's meeting.

"It is strongly in the interests of Syria, of the wider region and of the United Kingdom that we support them and deny space to extremist groups," he added.

"A credible alternative to the Assad regime is emerging that has the growing support of the Arab League, the European Union, the United States and an increasing number of other countries."

A spokesman for the coalition, Walid al-Bunni, told Reuters the UK's move was "very important" and would "encourage more Syrians to join the coalition and trust it and it will also encourage other European states to recognise it".

'Sustainable peace'

France, Turkey and six Gulf states have already recognised the opposition although the US has stopped short of doing so.

President Barack Obama has described the coalition as "a legitimate representation of the aspirations of the Syrian people" but said he was not yet prepared to regard it as a "government-in-exile" and was seeking assurances that elements within the opposition were not hostile to US interests in the region.

The European Union has recognised the coalition as "legitimate representatives" of the Syrian people, but not the sole one.

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander welcomed the UK's decision, saying it was an appropriate response to the "new found unity" within the opposition movement.

"Recognition is a vital step forward," he said. "Only a credible and inclusive transition plan and a united opposition holds the prospect of being a bridge between conflict and a sustainable peace in Syria."

But he sought guarantees that the move was not a "precursor" to the UK arming the Syrian opposition, which he said would be against the EU arms embargo and detract from diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

In response to a question from Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind - who has consistently called for the international community to arm Syrian opposition groups - Mr Hague said the government's position on military support had not changed.

"The arms embargo is due to be continued from 1 December as part of the entire package of Syria sanctions," he added. "We will keep all these options under review but we have made no decision to change our policy on arms supplies as things stand."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Don`t make the assumption that the UK public back you Hague because a majority do not. You have no legal right to make such statements on behalf of the people of this country without the approval of the people. It`s only you that recognise them, no one else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    William, in my previous post I forgot to ask if you are now also going to pay for the airfares and equipment for radical "British" rent-a-jihadists that seem to be pouring into Syria from the UK?

    What are you going to do with them when it is all over - Will you treat them as murderers or heros? They are are not members of our armed forces? Surely you are not condoning their actions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    68 laughingdevil

    er not long as that has already started

    Appears to be madness UNLESS you start asking who is really running the show & what is the agenda?

    Of cause you will not find such questions on the mainstream media

    But look no further than what happened in Libya 1 day our friends next day the bad guys WHY control of the oil $ &with it global control

    Just look up WTC7 & ask how?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    How in a civil war can you claim one side is the "sole legitimate representatives"? To say this seems silly, to declare it without any elections is just unbelievable!
    If you want peace then stop BOTH sides fighting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The current UK government is a disgrace and does not represent the views of the general public. Intervention in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan directly caused the deaths of 100,000's of civilians. And for what? To save us from terrorists? We killed 100,000's because 57 allegedy died from a terrorist act?

    It's an abomination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    What our politicians fail to grasp is that these states consist of different factions who will stop at nothing to achieve their own political and quasi-religious aims including extreme violence against any who object to them. They need strong leaders like Assad, Hussain, Gadafi et al to keep a strong hand on them to keep them in some kind of order. If that means an oppressive regime then so be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I do not give a monkeys about Syria other than stop giving them our hard earned taxes. Spend time recognizing that the UK is in a mess and do something about it!! Free UK of Cameron Army maybe Iran will recognize us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    On seeing two thugs brawling in the playground, Teacher does not care who is right and who is wrong, she just demands that they stop RIGHT NOW!

    The only legitimate intervention is the same: immediate ceasefire and disarmament, followed by a free election so that Syrian citizens can decide for themselves - probably neither bunch of thugs would get in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    How long before William Hague recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Catalan people to self-determination? At least they have not killed or displaced thousands of their countrymen.
    One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Sorry Max but he does represent you and he has the mandate simply because they are our elected government. They take these actions because they can see the big picture and glean lots of information before making these decisions.
    Mr Hague is the ONLY statesman out of the entire government that has credibility in the world's eyes.

    (blue touch paper lit)

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    This does not sound like a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Any schoolkid knows that if you see a fight over the other side of the playground between 2 kids you didn't know, it's best not to interfere. Sadly, this simple rule seems beyond the grasp of anyone in politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    How sure is William Hauge that the majority of people want this in Syria? Why are we (again) interfering in another countrys' politics? Have we learnt nothing. The waste of life in Afghanistan should be a stark warning to us.
    War is wrong. If people refused to fight there would be no wars. It causes suffering and the myth that we need a war to boost economies is misguided to say the least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Post 53. idiots surely you mean Plebs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I will be leading an violent uprising against an unpopular Government who could not even win a Majority and has no real mandate to govern, a Leader who i dont recognise as the real Leader of the UK. Any chance of lending me some money to do this William?, because that's what your whole idea is to give money to Terrorists. You reap what you sow "Rambo".

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Where is Mr Hagues concern for all the innocent civilians being killed in Gaza.Yes Hammas are complete idiots,but the Palestinians to Israeli deaths we were told on TV are 100-1.Why is Israel the only country in the world that is allowed to freely break international laws and not be forced to comply with UN resolutions. They are also allowed to keep their nuclear arsenal with no sanctions imposed

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Britain has a long and ignominious history in meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, and except for Libya – where the jury is still out (and let’s not forget we helped create the situation in the first place!) I can’t think of a single occasion where our intervention, diplomatic or military, has actually made things better.

    Get off your soap box William, nobody cares.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    49. Chris Neville-Smith

    FYI - Libyan government do not have any control over islamic militia in Libya. It is jungle rule over there and almost a failed state.

    Danger in Syria is even higher with thousands of Al-Qaeda terrorists trying to impose their own version of islamic rule. Pretty much like Afghanistan. Even if they can elect a democratic leader, there will be bloody civil war afterwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Out of interest any bets as to how long before this mob we are now "supporting" is shouting "death to the UK" burning our flag and shooting at our embasy?

  • Comment number 67.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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