Britain insists no role for Assad in Syria transition

AFP , Wednesday 4 Jul 2012

UK foreign secretary says political transition in Syria is impossible while Al-Assad remains in power, urges Russia to stop supporting Damascus

British Foreign Minister William Hague addresses the United Nations Security Council during a meeting at the United Nations in New York January 31, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that there could be no political transition in Syria with President Bashar al-Assad and urged Russia to stop backing its traditional ally.

His comments came after world powers agreed in Geneva on Saturday on a plan for transition in Syria, which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit but which the West said made clear there was no role for him in a unity government.

"Russia must understand that the situation in Syria is heading towards collapse," Hague said at a joint news conference in Paris with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

"Even if President Assad had a free hand in committing as many crimes, he will not be ble to control the situation in Syria," Hague said.

"There is no point in anyone standing by the Assad regime, this is a failed and doomed regime."

Hague's comments came ahead of a third "Friends of Syria" meeting to be held in Paris on Friday that aims to coordinate Western and Arab efforts to stop 16 months of deadly violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday accused some in the West of starting "to distort the agreements that were reached" in Geneva by saying that it left no future role for Assad.

But Hague insisted there was no place for the embattled leader in a transition and that the Geneva accord made that clear to all.

"I think we achieved a step forward... worth having which was the joint statement with Russia and China about the need for a transitional government in Syria which will include members of the opposition and other groups and crucially a government will be formed by mutual consent.

"Now that's a very important phrase and I think its clear to everyone that consent of the opposition will not be forthcoming for President Assad to be part of such a government so it is significant," he said.

Hague said if the Geneva accord was not implemented soon "then it will be necessary for the UK, France and other countries to come back to the Security Council and seek stronger resolutions."

More than 16,500 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad broke out in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The figure is impossible to independently verify, and the United Nations no longer publishes its own estimates of the death toll.

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