UK going its own way? Pressure builds for Cameron to defy EU over Syria

By Tony Hudson

Pressure built for David Cameron to defy an EU arms embargo on Syria today, after new evidence emerged of atrocities by regime forces.

Speaking before the liaison committee on Tuesday, the prime minister said a veto on the embargo was "not out of the question".

Although Cameron stated he was hopeful the EU would be able to reach an agreement on the embargo, which is currently set for renewal in May, the UK is "still an independent country" and would not rule out "an independent foreign policy" of greater involvement in the dispute.

The prime minister warned against inaction, claiming "it may be that doing nothing will see the level of jihadism get worse".

An Amnesty International report released today showed government bombardments have killed thousands of civilians – many of them children – in recent months and continue to do so.

"Children in Syria are being killed and maimed in increasingly large numbers in bombardments carried out by government forces. Many have seen their parents, siblings and neighbours blown to pieces in front of them," said Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director Ann Harrison.

The briefing also reported an almost daily discovery of the bodies of boys and men who have been extra-judicially executed by pro-Assad forces.

But in a sign of how complex and potentially explosive events on the ground remain, Amnesty International found rebels are also responsible for acts of violence.

According to the briefings, opposition forces have executed pro-government fighters and those they believe to be informers before dumping the bodies in what was described as a 'hole of death' in southern Damascus.

"If left unaddressed such practices risk becoming more and more entrenched – it is imperative that all those concerned know they will be held accountable for their actions," Harrison said.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Ian Lucas said: "This report from Amnesty gives a worrying account of the escalating violence in Syria. The appalling human rights abuses which continue to take place must be condemned, particularly the deliberate bombing of civilians.

"Whilst primary responsibility for this conflict rests with President Assad's forces, Amnesty's report underlines the need for all sides to now halt the violence and take part in UN-led talks to agree a peaceful political process of transition."