Politics

Syria: William Hague Backs Peacekeeping Force

Plans to send a joint United Nations and Arab League peacekeeping force in to Syria must be discussed "urgently", Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

Following yesterday's Arab League meeting, Mr Hague said he welcomed the establishment of the Group of Friends of Syria, which is expected to include exiled opposition leaders.

But he said any peacekeeping force could only be sent in once President Bashar Assad had ended his brutal military crackdown against civilians.

In a statement, Mr Hague said: "We will discuss urgently with the Arab League and our international partners the proposals for a joint AL/UN peacekeeping force.

"Such a mission could have an important role to play in saving lives, providing the Assad regime ends the violence against civilians, withdraws its forces from towns and cities and establishes a credible ceasefire."

Mr Hague said "significant steps" were taken at yesterday's Arab League meeting to increase the "diplomatic and economic isolation" faced by the Syrian regime.

He said the UK would play a "very active part" in the new Group of Friends of Syria, which has been established to increase political and financial support to opposition leaders in Syria. The group will meet on February 24.

Mr Hague added: "President Assad must be in no doubt of the determination of his neighbours and the international community to bring an end to the violence in Syria.

"The Arab League could not have sent a clearer message to Syria than the one it sent yesterday and we look forward to working closely with them in the coming days and weeks."