Nov 7 2012
The Daily Mail
BRITAIN is to open talks with gunmen seeking to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad after David Cameron signalled that he would like to start arming the rebels.
In a dramatic escalation of the UK’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the Prime Minister will today give the green light for British officials to advise rebel commanders on the ground for the first time.
Officials say the talks are designed to help the opposition forces form one united rebel army to bring about regime change.
But in a clear sign that he would like to go even further, Mr Cameron told the Mail that he is ‘frustrated’ by the EU arms embargo on sending weapons to Syria, of which Britain is part.
‘We must ask ourselves, “What more can we do to help the opposition?”,’ he declared, adding that he is ‘not currently planning to’ supply arms to the rebels.
‘I am very frustrated we can’t do more,’ he said during a trip to the Middle East. ‘This is an appalling slaughter. We must keep pushing, keep seeing what more can be done to hasten the political transition that’s clearly needed.’
Raising the stakes further, Mr Cameron said yesterday that President al Assad would be offered a safe haven if he wants to flee the country – but not in Britain.
The Prime Minister visited the Jordanian capital Amman ahead of a trip today to a refugee camp on Jordan’s border with Syria, where thousands have fled the bloodshed, which has already cost 40,000 lives.
He will announce a £14.5million boost in humanitarian aid from Britain to UN agencies helping those in the camps. The UK has already donated £39.5million.
The talks with rebel commanders, which put the UK one step closer to military intervention, will be announced to Parliament today by Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Until now British contacts have been limited to discussions with the civilian wings of rebel forces such as the Free Syrian Army and political leaders in exile.
The new engagement with rebel commanders will be led by John Wilks, a Foreign Office Arabic speaker who has been acting as Mr Cameron’s envoy to the opposition.
The idea of a possible exit plan for Assad was condemned by campaigners.
Amnesty International UK Syria campaign manager Kristyan Benedict said: ‘Instead of talking about immunity deals for President Assad, David Cameron should be supporting efforts to ensure that he faces justice, ideally at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
‘After Syrian government forces have indulged in a massive campaign of indiscriminate bombings, mass round-ups and torture, there should be no question of Bashar al-Assad escaping justice with a cosy deal of this kind.
‘The thousands of Syrians who have lost relatives are entitled to and deserve credible justice, and President Assad and his commanders must be held to account for their brutal actions. Mr Cameron should use all of his influence to ensure that this happens.’
Mr Cameron is hoping to use his three-day tour of the region to secure deals worth £6billion to sell Typhoon fighter jets to several countries.
He was forced to defend the trade mission after criticism from human rights groups.
Mr Cameron said: ‘It is my job to get good deals for Britain, which means jobs in the UK, investment in the UK and make sure that we’re in the global race, but at the same time not compromising on our strong views about human rights, which we raise with all of these countries.
‘But let’s be clear, I came here to the United Arab Emirates wanting the strongest possible long-term defence partnership between our two countries and that’s exactly what we’ve agreed with Typhoon, and that is a very good outcome for both our countries and for jobs in the UK.
‘Now when it comes to Saudi Arabia, again this is a country that’s very important for our prosperity but it’s also important for our security too. As a full G20 member, we’ll both be discussing Syria, Iran, other regional issues that are vital to the future security of the United Kingdom.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2228650/Cameron-hints-arming-Syrian-rebellion-major-escalation-British-involvement-civil-war.html#ixzz2BVz2IC6G
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook