News / Europe

Britain Vows to Support Syrian Opposition

Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, July 16, 2012.
Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague speaks during a news conference in Tripoli, July 16, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
LONDON — In London, Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain will work outside the U.N. Security Council to support the opposition movement in Syria. Hague was speaking Friday before the Security Council reconvened to take up the crisis in Syria. The Council's original attempt to impose sanctions on the Assad government in Damascus was blocked by Russia and China vetos.

Hague laid out Britain's position on the BBC early Friday, hours before ambassadors met at the Security Council in New York.

“We will all be doing more outside the Security Council and intensifying our work to support the Syrian opposition, to give humanitarian aid outside the work of the Security Council,” he stated.

Britain's top diplomat said London will not provide “lethal” support to the Syrian rebels, but noted he is sure that other countries will do so. He criticized the Security Council for failing to shoulder its responsibilities and doing what is needed to resolve the crisis in Syria.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday that would have imposed non-military sanctions on the Syrian government. It was the third time that the two countries blocked action on the resolution.

Nadim Shehadi, a Syria expert with the London-based research group Chatham House, says Russia may well end up regretting its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The Russians have suffered a lot by backing the wrong horse, and they have stuck their neck out too far in support of Assad. And they have a lot at stake: They have to think of their relations with the future Syria and with the Arab world in general,” said Shehadi.

The Kremlin rejected as "unacceptable" the Western charges that Russia incited even more violence in Syria by joining China on the U.N. veto. Moscow contended American lawmakers are “being held captive by a Cold War mentality.”

Hague said it is Russia and China’s veto of united action on Syria that is unacceptable.” The view in London, he said Thursday, is that the “Assad regime is still doomed”.  

Analyst Shehadi says Western powers were once fearful of what would happen in Syria if Assad's regime collapses, but that view has changed.

“Assad's power was mainly based on generating enough fear within his own population and within the international community to be concerned about what would happen after he leaves, so we would in a way cling to him as 'the lesser of evils,' or as 'the devil one knows rather than the devil one does not know,” he said.

Russia and China are both permanent members of the Security Council along with Britain, France and the United States.

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