LONDON, Nov 7 (KUNA) -- Britain is opening talks with Syrian rebel military
leaders in a bid to unite the opposition and end the bloodshed, it was
announced Wednesday, as Premier David Cameron prepared to meet refugees from
The Prime Minister, who is on the final leg of his three-day tour of the
Middle East, is in Jordan, over whose border 110,000 Syrians have so far fled
the violence and sought refuge, the British media reported.
UK aid is being increased by 14 million pounds to provide food and
children's services for them as well as others still trapped in their homeland
and thousands more in other neighbouring countries.
The conflict has been high on the agenda in Cameron's talks with the
leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates amid frantic efforts to
find ways to stem the bloodshed, officials said.
He said yesterday that he was prepared to see Syrian president Bashar Assad
escape international justice by being given a safe passage out of the country
if that would help ensure a peaceful power shift.
And in a further signal of intensified efforts - in the absence of any
tough United Nations Security Council resolution - the UK is to open a new
dialogue with the leaders of the rebel forces.
For his part, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has given the green light
to his special envoy to the opposition John Wilkes to arrange meetings in
third countries to initiate discussions, the officials said.
It is a recognition that events are increasingly dictated by the military
figures and not the splintered political groupings, who met in Qatar this week
in an effort to forge an alliance against Assad, commentators noted.
And there is mounting concern that extremists are gaining a major influence
inside opposition forces.
Downing Street said the work would help the UK "better understand the
actual situation and the relationship between political and armed opposition
"The Government will make absolutely clear to these groups that they must
respect human rights and humanitarian law standards.
"We will also call on them to work with aid agencies to facilitate vital
humanitarian access," Number 10 said. More than 30,000 people have been killed
in the violence, 2.5 million in the country need humanitarian assistance and
the number of refugees in the surrounding region is predicted to almost double
to 710,000 by the end of the year.
That could mean a quarter of a million alone in Jordan, where Cameron is
thought to be the first G20 leader to visit them and see for himself the
conditions they face.
Of the new aid, 9.5 million pounds will go on blankets, soap and food for
those forced out of their homes within Syria and on emergency help for the 8,
300 Palestinian refugees based in Syria, the officials added.
The rest - taking total UK aid to ease the crisis to 53.5 million pounds-
will be used to help those who have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey -
including safe transport from the border to the camps where they are being
Cameron said yesterday that he believed it "could be arranged" for Assad to
leave the country, even if that meant he would not be given up to
international courts over war crime or other charges.
"Anything, anything to get that man out of the country and to have a safe
transition in Syria. "Of course I would favour him facing the full force of
international law and justice for what he's done".
However, Cameron ruled out the UK arming the Syrian rebels because of
international law but said he was "frustrated that we can't do more.
"We must ask ourselves what more can we do: how can we help the opposition;
how can we put the pressure on Assad; how can we work with partners in the
region to turn this around." Cameron will fly back to the UK after meeting
with the King of Jordan for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel here
tonight but will not arrive in time for Prime Minister's questions in the
House of Commons, Downing Street pointed out. (end) he.asa
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