Foreign secretary William Hague today hailed the formation of the new Syrian opposition as “very encouraging”, and said he hoped it will “mark a turning point”.
Watch the key lines from his press conference:
“The situation in Syria, of course, is very grave and is deteriorating, more than 30,000 people have now died, hundreds of thousands are refugees in neighbouring countries, many hundreds of thousands are displaced within Syria, millions need humanitarian assistance, so we will want, of course, to continue to step up our assistance to the people of Syria.
“The formation of the coalition is a very encouraging development and I’m further encouraged by the discussions that I have had with them this morning, it is important of course, and I have stressed to them, that they respect minority rights, that they are inclusive of all communities in Syria, committed to a democratic future for the people of Syria, that in the face of a regime that has committed such abuse, violence and rape against the people of their own country, that this coalition stands firmly against all of those things, that they uphold high standards of human rights, of international humanitarian law, preventing sexual violence, preventing abuse of prisoners, these things are very important to their future and to international support for them, I am encouraged by their response to that, and to have met Sheikh al-Khatib, the President of the National Coalition, I welcome the commitment that he has made to reach out to all opposition groups and communities in Syria, to respect human rights, to finalise a clear plan for political transition in Syria, and, of course, to demonstrate that the coalition can be a credible political alternative to the Assad regime.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, in-depth discussions will now take place here in London today with a wide range of countries about how we can channel assistance more effectively to the people of Syria, build up our links with the new coalition and so the meeting today will focus on the practicalities of those things, we will have further discussions in the European Union on Monday in Brussels which I will attend, about Syria and about the assistance we can give to the coalition and to the people of Syria, and I will make a further statement to the House of Commons next week about our apporach, but I hope that today, this meeting today will mark a turning point for the Syrian people, and that it will begin the major steps towards a political transition in Syria.
“So I am encouraged by what I have heard and seen from the leaders of the coalition, and I hope the discussions in London today will bring greater assistance to tens of thousands of people suffering today in Syria.”
Today’s developments round off a very encouraging week for the Syria opposition.
As Left Foot Forward has reported, this week the US has pledged an extra $30 million in aid, to help get food to those suffering inside Syria and refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq; the French government has officially recognised the new opposition, Francois Hollande calling the coalition “the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”; General Sir Dave Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, said the UK “could intervene” to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian crisis.
And, on the ground, the rebels have captured shoulder-mounted Surface-to-Air missiles, and have taken “almost all” the Syrian villages bordering the Golan Heights, with the Syrian army displaying “ever-diminishing efficiency”, according to Israel defence minister Ehud Barak.