Britain acknowledges rebels as Syria’s only legitimate voice
William Hague officially recognises Syrian opposition, but makes no mention of arming rebels
BRITAIN has recognised the newly united Syrian opposition as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people and promised it new assistance in the uprising against Bashar al-Assad.
The announcement by Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement to MPs today marks a significant shift in British policy, The Guardian says. It follows a similar move by France last week and goes beyond a more cautious endorsement by the European Union.
Hague made no mention of providing weapons to the Syrian opposition. But he added that, in the absence of a political and diplomatic solution to the 18-month conflict that has killed up to 30,000 people, "we will not rule out any option in accordance with international law that might save innocent lives in Syria and prevent the destabilisation of a region that remains critical to the security of the United Kingdom and the peace of the whole world".
Britain was spurred to shift its position after it received "important and encouraging" assurances from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces on agreeing a detailed political transition plan for Syria, Hague said. The Coalition also showed a "clear commitment to human rights and international humanitarian law, including the protection of religious communities and unfettered and safe access for humanitarian agencies".
Hague told MPs the Syrian opposition would be invited to appoint a political representative to the UK and would be given a £1.6m package of communications equipment, the BBC says.
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.
A spokesman for the Coalition, Walid al-Bunni, said 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".