UK gives £5m in aid to Syria rebels

 

Britain will expand its support to the Syrian political opposition fighting President Bashar Assad with an extra £5 million of non-lethal practical assistance, the Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

William Hague said the financial assistance would help protect civilians from "some of the worst of the violence".

He said: "So now in the absence of diplomatic progress, the United Kingdom will do much more. We will expand our support to the Syrian people and the Syrian political opposition with an extra £5 million in non-lethal practical assistance.

"This will help protect unarmed opposition groups, human rights activists, and civilians from some of the worst of the violence.

"This is in addition to, and separate from, our humanitarian assistance."

Speaking at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Hague said: "We expect that our assistance will include trauma and medical supplies for civilians in areas under regime control and could include items such as paramedic trauma kits, specialist trauma treatment, surgical equipment, field dressings, antibiotics, pain killers and water purification kits to respond to the cutting of fresh water supplies."

Mr Hague said assistance to the opposition would include communications equipment to "help political activists overcome the regime's communications blockade".

The Foreign Secretary said: "It's well recognised that the situation in Syria is an affront to the conscience of humanity."

He said the UN Security Council, which will meet again at the end of this month, had a responsibility to "stop the bloodshed" but added: "The people of Syria cannot wait indefinitely.

"People are dying and are trapped without food and shelter."

Mr Hague said the Syrian people "need urgent help" and so the UK was "greatly increasing" its support for them.

Mr Hague said more training would be provided to support the documentation by Syrian activists of human rights violations and abuses and "to support steps to help Syrian opposition groups to uphold human rights".

He added assistance could also include life saving protective equipment for civilians "to help those carrying out vital work in the crossfire", such as body armour.

But he stressed that Britain would not provide lethal assistance and that all of its support would be "consistent with our laws and values".

"This is assistance that will help save lives, not abandon all Syrians to the mercy of the regime. It will help people caught up in a terrible conflict."

Efforts to achieve a united UN Security Council response - currently blocked by Russia and China - would continue, Mr Hague said.

"We will not pause or rest in trying to seek a diplomatic solution," he said.

Mr Hague refused to say who Britain was speaking to from the political side of the Free Syrian Army.

"I'm not going to name names because these are people who are great enemies of course of the Assad regime, and they would be in danger if we did that," he said.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander cautioned the Government against doing anything that would escalate the violence in Syria.

"Given that Syria has descended into civil war the Government needs to act with real care," he said.

"The international community should be focused on de-escalating the violence in Syria, not escalating it.

"Alongside humanitarian aid for the refugees of this conflict, the Government should be focusing its efforts on better understanding the diverse opposition to Assad and supporting the efforts of the Arab League to unify that opposition around a credible plan for transition."

Amnesty International UK's Syria campaign manager Kristyan Benedict said: "The promise of training for human rights activists and citizen journalists is very welcome, and it will be important that this complements what the UN's own Commission of Inquiry on Syria is already trying to do."

He added that Britain had to be clear with the Syrian opposition that it must not tolerate human rights abuses.

"Practical measures which aim to protect all of Syria's civilians are to be welcomed," he said.

"The UK Government and its partners would be doing a great service to the Syrian people if it helps develop the awareness and mechanisms to ensure the armed opposition leadership make clear to their forces that war crimes and human rights abuses will never be tolerated.

"The UK needs to be crystal clear with the commanders of Syria's armed opposition that they have a duty to prevent war crimes by those under their command."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?