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 446.

    We should have nothing to do with other countries internal struggles, we have enough of our own problems as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    I hope this is not the signal , that the UK will be arming the rebels...

  • Comment number 444.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Regimes like Assad, Saddam, Hosni Mubarak & N Korea do NOT surrender their power/authoity or give it up peacefully.
    They like Hitler, survive by the blood of the last person alive

    The ONLY way of removing such regimes is by confrontation & the courage of those who give their lives for a BETTER future.

    Lets NEVER forget, ALL those nations/peoples who helped Britain in OUR HOUR OF NEED

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    @425. DavidinUSA

    The US/UK have inflicted death and destruction all over the world; Iran is comparitively a soft cute little teddy with sorrowful eyes. As for anti-semitism - for too long people have shouted anti-semitism to shutdown debate on zionism. Zionism is real, its here and it's being supported every day through AIPAC, Friends of Israel, etc lobbyists in our two ahem 'great' nations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    Another illegal and immoral action by the British Govt.
    By classifying militant mercenaries, traitors and Al CIAda as the official govt of Syria, shows how GB and its allies will stop at nothing to cause more destruction in the already devastated area.

    BBC is nothing but a sham and its reporting is disgustingly bias and serves the purposes of its puppet masters.

    Explain why did we attack afgan?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    NOT soon as oil is involved the government jumps in,at the chance of goodwill and oil...once they are certain who will win, they want to join the losing party...FICKLE, like playground bullies. What about genocide in Rwanda and reaction there...lots of pain little gain...that would be why, not because every ones dying. Start doing what a decent chap would do please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.


    Very interesting, Waseem. Thanks.

    I'm far from convinced that either Assad or the National Coalition are legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. Each group seems strongly biased to or against some major Syrian religious group. Each side's mandate, currently, is from guns, not the wider public.

    UK & French recognition seems to have more to do with politics than truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    The danger is that we'll end up swapping a Syria with a depraved, violent, secular leader for a country led by sleazy, weird beard Hamas-type fanatics, who may have more that crude rockets for their mischief-making. (Syria is one of the ferw countries that hasn't signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.)

    Tread carefully, Mr Hague...

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    I have the audacity to think that my opinion matters. lol

    God save us from the good the do-gooders do!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Send in armed death squads to overthrow a legitimately elected Syrian government, then recognise them as the new Syrian government.

    What beautiful people we are to allow such evil tur*s to lead us. Hague is a puppet of the international financiers who own our government but do not quite control Syria's.........yet.

    Satan is alive and kicking and operating out of the City of London/Wall Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    @417 'usedtobeBill'
    I agree with this poster. Neither Assad, nor the imported rebels will be victors. Civilians dead or fleeing across borders for safety.

    This is a civil war in Syria. Not unlike civil wars in British, French, Canadian or American history?

    Hague has no right to speak on behalf of UK people. Perhaps his strings are pulled by those across the Atlantic who won't be named?

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    3 Minutes ago
    Why on earth would the Syrians be “represented” by such foreign backed/ Qatari funded/ MB led Coalition which aims to destroy the secular identity of Syria and its “non-compliant” government??


    Would we then be supporting the Muslim Sisterhood against the Muslim Brotherhood?

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    'If you think that both sides of this conflict have been killing civilians in equal measure then you are misinformed and should research the conflict more'

    So that makes it alright if you've killed less civilians than the other side then ?

    The Syrian rebels.....are they all Syrian born citizens fighting for freedom or are some foreigners who have a different agenda ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Why on earth would the Syrians be “represented” by such foreign backed/ Qatari funded/ MB led Coalition which aims to destroy the secular identity of Syria and its “non-compliant” government??

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    I have started a government e-petition: Require immediate ceasefire & disarmament of all in Syria followed by free elections - not sure when it will go live but please search on it and if you agree sign it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.


    Which translates as we can't bully the Russians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.


    Libya is thanking us, as will the Syrian people for defending them. I am proud of our government for this

    You are obviously delusional with fever. Libya is a mess now and cost the UK hundreds of millions to help create that mess. The numpties that "govern" us have not got a clue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    A yet another stupid move - despite all the high level Oxbridge education they understand so little- dismantling a state creates Somalia and Afghanistan type situations where bandits take over and will never give up their hold.. why are political negoatiations being rejected> because bandits don't want it .. and they don't respect borders either..wake up! true opposition in syria is in jail!

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    I really don't care about the politics of it all. My concern is the innocent people, including children, being killed...send in the fighter jets. No fly zone should help out for starters..
    They know they can do it, but they are too scared of offending the spineless greedy Russians and Chinese


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