Britain turning back on Assad’s ‘doomed’ regime

By Alex Stevenson

Britain's ambassador to Syria has been recalled but London is not prepared to break diplomatic links with the Assad regime completely, the foreign secretary has said.

William Hague told the Commons he had summoned Damascus' ambassador to the Foreign Office "to make clear our abhorrence" at the violence currently consuming Syria.

Britain is moving closer to supporting pro-democracy protesters outright. The UK will play a leading role in an international contact group with resistance leaders and is participating in 11 rounds of EU sanctions.

"This regime is doomed one way or another," Mr Hague said.

"It is a question of how it falls – it is not a question of whether it will fall."

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander asked Mr Hague what "utility" the remaining diplomatic links between London and Damascus had, after Washington announced it was shutting its embassy down completely.

"Our embassy premises are in a different situation and our security is slightly easier to maintain," Mr Hague explained.

"I would prefer if we make a further change to our diplomatic relations with Syria to act in concert with a wide number of other nations – we will stay close to our partners in the Arab world and EU, but the House will understand there are advantages in maintaining an embassy as long as we can – discussing situation with people in Syria, monitoring situation on ground.

"I'm not announcing at the moment any closure of our embassy – we will keep that situation under close review."

The foreign secretary upped his rhetoric against the governments of Russia and China, who vetoed a UN security council resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence on Saturday.

He said the vetoes were a "betrayal of the Syrian people" and attacked Moscow and Beijing for implicitly assisting the violence being conducted by the Assad regime.

"The human suffering in Syria is already unimaginable and is in grave danger of escalating further," Mr Hague said.

"The position taken by Russia and China has regrettably made this more likely. However, this government… will not forget the people of Syria."

Around 6,000 people have died in Syria in the last 11 months, Mr Hague told MPs, with snipers, tanks, artillery and mortars used against civilians to suppress protests calling for democracy.

Demonstrators have been subjected to imprisonment, torture and even sexual violence, with allegations surfacing that children may have been raped.

Mr Hague said the UK would be pursuing human rights violations at the UN and promised a "day of reckoning" for those responsible.