Britain wants urgent talks on peace force for Syria: British FM

AFP , Monday 13 Feb 2012

Foreign Minister Haque says Britain will start talks with Arab League over its proposal to form a joint peacekeeping force in Syria

Britain will have urgent discussions with the Arab League over the group's proposal for a joint peacekeeping force with the United Nations in Syria, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday.

Hague also welcomed the Arab League's decision at a meeting in Cairo on Sunday to endorse a "Friends of Syria" group, including Britain, which will meet in Tunisia on 24 February.

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

"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."

Hague said Britain would play a "very active part" in the Friends of Syria group, which has similarities to the Libya contact group formed by international partners against Libyan leader Moammer Gaddafi.

The Arab League said in a statement after the Cairo meeting that it would "ask the UN Security Council to issue a decision on the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire."

It said diplomats from the league would also open contacts with the Syrian opposition and give them financial and political support against Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Hague said the Arab League had taken "significant steps to increase the diplomatic and economic isolation of the Syrian regime".

"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," Hague said.

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