William Hague meets Syrian opposition leaders for London talks
Foreign secretary William Hague is to follow France’s lead in recognising the newly formed Syrian opposition led by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
France is the first Western country to accept the opposition coalition as a legitimate government in exile.
Turkey has also recognised the group and Britain is set to accept the coalition, and potentially call a lift on the EU arms embargo to allow the supply of weapons to rebel forces.
The Syrian opposition was formed in Doha last week, where Cleric Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib was appointed its leader. They will now set up headquarters in Cairo.
French president François Hollande will meet with key Syrian opposition leaders in Paris this weekend while William Hague is also set to meet with the French president after talks with al-Khatib in London on Friday.
William Hague is said to be “encouraged” by their commitment to respect human rights, promote political inclusiveness and uphold international law, and wanted to recognise them as a legitimate voice at this early stage.
Britain will urge the coalition to put forward a clear plan for political transition in Syria. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has urged the opposition to become more credible to gain American recognition.
“There has to be representation of those who are on the front lines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom,” she said.
“This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes, but have, in many instances, have not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years,” Clinton noted ahead of the Doha meeting.
Questions are still being raised by the UK and US over the background of some factions of the coalition who have been linked to Islamic militant and terrorist organisations.
As the situation continues to deteriorate inside Syria, William Hague stated: “We cannot just stand still and just say we will leave things as they are.”
Opposition and human rights activists estimate more than 36,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March last year.