Hague: Syrian opposition is ‘legitimate'

UK foreign secretary says Bashar Assad's rule is a "criminal regime," speaking at Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi)
LONDON – Britain has officially recognized the Syrian National Council as “a legitimate representative” of the Syrian people as Foreign Secretary William Hague stepped up the rhetoric by referring to Bashar Assad’s rule as a “criminal regime.”
Speaking at the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia on Friday, Hague said the UK would “intensify” its links with the council, Syria’s largest opposition group.
Hague recognized that there were other Syrian opposition groups and that the SNC was not in control, but said the UK was encouraging the council to bring together as many of the opposition groups as possible.
“This is therefore a different situation than that we faced in Libya last year,” he said in regard to the SNC’s position.
“But I do believe they are making progress. I do believe they justify our intensified support, and that’s why we are working with them.”
Hague added that he had offered the “political opposition outside Syria additional, practical help.”
The foreign secretary also spoke about the bombardment of the Syrian city of Homs and the “terrible crimes” committed by Assad.
“I think we have seen enough in the last few weeks to know that the Assad regime will go down in history as a criminal regime,” he said.
“The UK will continue our work to help document the crimes that are taking place so that one day those responsible for them will have to answer for their actions.”
Hague said that further sanctions would be placed on Syria when the EU meets in Brussels on Monday, but also hoped non-European countries would step up their sanctions against the Assad regime and tighten the diplomatic and economic stranglehold.
He also said it was crucial that humanitarian work be coordinated more effectively.
“We are already sending food rations and other emergency supplies to people affected by the conflict,” he said. “Better international coordination of that and readiness to supply more humanitarian supplies whenever a cessation of violence can be brought about is something we now need to prepare for.”
Some 70 countries, including the US, UK and France, attended the Tunis conference, which was organized by the Arab League.
Both Russia and China, which vetoed a UN Security Council resolution against Syria, refused to attend the conference.
Asked about the two countries, Hague said: “Our efforts so far in the Security Council to agree a resolution based on the Arab League plan which involved a cessation of violence have been frustrated by Russia and China. And I hope those countries will take note of this strength of international feeling and support that we’re seeing here in Tunisia, with more than 60 countries coming together, because it means that they are increasingly isolated in their view.”
He added that he hoped they would change their position.
“I think when one looks at things like the report yesterday pointing to crimes against humanity and a continued deterioration in the situation and Syria sliding towards greater chaos and bloodshed, it’s very important for Moscow and Beijing to a re-evaluate their position.”