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November 07, 2012

Britain Opens Direct Talks With Syrian Opposition

by Selah Hennessy

Finding a solution to Syria’s civil war should be a priority for Britain and the United States, following the U.S. president's re-election, says British Prime Minister David Cameron. Britain says it will open talks with armed Syrian rebels.

Cameron was in Jordan visiting Syrian refugees at Zaatari camp, which houses about 30,000 people who fled war-torn Syria.

He congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on his re-election and said one of the first things he hopes to speak with Obama about is how their countries must do more to solve Syria’s crisis.

"We want Assad to go, we want to see a peaceful, political transition and a safe country for the future. But right now, the international community has to recognize, that what we have done is not enough," said Cameron.

​​In an interview Tuesday, Cameron said he would support giving safe passage to President Bashar al-Assad. On Wednesday, he added he would like to see Assad face full international justice.

Durham University Syria expert Daniel Newman said Cameron’s visit to the refugees is significant.

“It sends a very powerful message to the Syrian opposition that Britain is very much engaged with the situation and is taking a very active role,” said Newman.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he has directed British officials have direct contact with military figures in the armed Syrian opposition. He said the rebels would not be armed and any contact would take place outside Syria.

Newman said Hague’s statement is not a change in policy.

“What was there in the shadows, if you like, has moved out into the light of day,” said Newman.

He noted that the comments from Hague and Cameron demonstrate Britain is pushing for more engagement in an effort to resolve Syria’s crisis. An estimated 36,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict.