Friday 23 March 2018

Cameron hints at deploying troops against Syria's Assad

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Dael, near Deraa. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrators take part in a protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Dael, near Deraa. Photo: Reuters

James Kirkup in Chicago

BRITISH military personnel could be deployed to Syria to increase pressure on the Assad regime over human rights abuses, David Cameron has suggested.

The British prime minister told fellow world leaders last night that more must be done to stop Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, oppressing his people.

Britain is prepared to contribute officers to an enlarged international monitoring mission, Mr Cameron told a G8 summit in the US.

There are more than 200 United Nations monitors inside Syria, where more than 9,000 people have died since last year as the regime tries to suppress opposition to Mr Assad's rule.

The monitors are in the country as part of a deal negotiated with Mr Assad by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, which is supposed to lead to a ceasefire and talks between the regime and its opponents.

However, Mr Assad's allies "continue to show wanton disregard" for the Annan process, Mr Cameron told the Camp David summit last night, saying the regime must be put under much greater pressure. Civilians are still being killed at a rate of more than 30 a day in Syria, he added.

"We need to make the regime feel that their every action is being closely scrutinised and that means observers up and down the country with their eyes and ears to the ground," said a Downing Street source.

The current observer mission is led by Major General Robert Mood, a Norwegian officer. Britain is preparing to send a senior army officer to support him, and Downing Street sources said the prime minister was prepared to go further and assign more British personnel to an enlarged monitoring mission. Initially, that could mean "a handful" of British Service personnel, but the number could grow, one source said.

The government has also appointed Jon Wilks, its ambassador to Yemen, as "Special Envoy to the Syrian opposition".


British assistance to Mr Assad's opponents includes providing communications equipment, which the government says will allow human rights workers to document and communicate abuses taking place in Syria, where government forces are continuing military attacks on towns held by opponents of the Assad regime.

Syrian security forces yesterday fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of people who joined a rally in the city of Aleppo, where most people have previously strongly supported Mr Assad. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the protest showed "a real uprising happening in Aleppo".

Maj Gen Mood warned that the observer mission could not hope to deliver "a permanent end to the violence if the commitment to give dialogue a chance is not genuine from all internal and external actors".

Mr Cameron is stepping up his rhetoric on Syria amid widespread concerns that instability in the country could help extremist groups. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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