Syrian arms embargo to be reviewed

Cameron said Britain was leading the way among international efforts as the second-largest donor to humanitarian aid.

European countries including Britain are to review the arms embargo in Syria as part of continuing efforts to support the opposition to President Assad, David Cameron told the Commons today.

The Prime Minister told MPs last week's gathering of European leaders had agreed there was a "moral imperative" for action in Syria, which has seen bloody fighting for more than a year.

Mr Cameron said Britain was leading the way among international efforts as the second-largest donor to humanitarian aid.

And reporting on the European Council in a statement to MPs, Mr Cameron said: "A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Syria on our watch, with over 40,000 dead and millions in need of urgent assistance as a hard winter approaches.

"We continue to encourage political transition from the top and to support the opposition which is attempting to force a transition from below.

"This should include and will include looking at the arms embargo. We must now explore all options to support the opposition to enable greater support for the protection of civilians."

Mr Cameron said there was also a strategic imperative to act because of a "growing cohort of al Qaida-linked extremists" in the country meaning there was a growing risk of regional instability.

He said: "We cannot go on as we are. Assad's regime is illegitimate, the council committed to work for a future for Syria that is democratic and inclusive with full support for human rights and minorities."

Answering Labour leader Ed Miliband, Mr Cameron added: "It is right to look at amending the arms embargo; of course, we will be keeping the arms embargo on the regime.

"There are arguments on both sides of the debate but it is a debate that should be had, that European foreign ministers will be having.

"My concern is that if we, with others, aren't helping to shape and work with the opposition, it's much more difficult to get the transition we all want to see to a peaceful, democratic Syria that respects the rights of minorities."

Responding to the statement, Mr Miliband said: "The international community must work together to end the atrocities immediately and speak with one voice in favour of a transition to a new government.

"You mentioned the arms embargo while also noting Syria is attracting a new cohort of al Qaida-linked extremists. In that context, can you go further and tell us if you are actively urging the EU to end its arms embargo or merely amending its terms?

"Do you recognise, notwithstanding the deep concern in the international community about the situation in Syria, some of the dangers in this approach, in putting weapons into a zone in which there is already deep conflict?"

Mr Cameron warned MPs that al Qaida-linked terrorists were operating in Syria as the country fragmented.

He said: "The elements that are linked to al Qaida are linked to elements of the opposition and there is very strong evidence that groups ... take an unacceptable view about Islamic extremism.

"There are very real concerns about this issue and this leads to the argument about how involved we should get with the Syrian opposition.

"There is a strong argument for saying that by being more involved with other like-minded allies, we would be able to try and support those elements of the opposition that most want to see a free and democratic and inclusive Syria."

In exchanges on Mr Cameron's statement in the House of Lords, Independent Labour peer Lord Stoddart of Swindon criticised the possible lifting of the arms embargo.

He said: "Arms mean more death. Will not the Government embark on a peace process rather than a war process and the support of some elements in Syria that are nasty and vicious and should not be supported?"

Leader of the House Lord Strathclyde, who had repeated Mr Cameron's statement, said it would be "premature" to lift the embargo but it was "right to keep it under review".

Labour former foreign secretary Jack Straw said the Government needed to engage Russia to stop the conflict in Syria.

He said: "Could you say what further efforts are being made with the Russians to try and secure some international agreement, however difficult this may be, given that Russia's compliance and consent is crucial to some overall settlement?"

Mr Cameron said if there was to be a change in government in Syria "from the top", the Russians needed to be part of the process. He added: "The Foreign Secretary (William Hague) has met and spoken to them regularly. I have discussed this issue with President Putin.

"There was a report on Thursday whilst we were in the European Council that the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister had made some interesting remarks about Syria so we will read those with care.

"Clearly everything we can do at the UN and with countries like Russia is worthwhile."

PA

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
Review: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit