x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hague criticises UN divisions over Syria, saying 'the world has failed'

G8 countries remain divided over whether to supply arms to rebels fighting to overthrown the Assad regime. Omar Karmi reports from London

LONDON // The British foreign secretary William Hague yesterday criticised the divisions within the UN Security Council that have hindered efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria.

Foreign ministers from the G8 met in London for a second day of talks yesterday, with Syria the top item on the agenda.

Mr Hague said the group agreed the immediate priority was to increase humanitarian access to Syrians and ensure donors followed up on their aid pledges.

But it was still divided over whether to supply arms to rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime.

The US is wary of direct military support to the Syrian opposition, an option Britain and France are promoting, while Russia is an ally of Mr Al Assad and has vetoed UN sanctions against Syria.

"The United Nations Security Council has not fulfilled its responsibilities because it is divided. That division continues," Mr Hague said later. "Have we solved that division at this meeting? No. The world has failed so far in its responsibilities and continues to do so."

France, Russia, the US and UK are all members of the G8 and Security Council. The G8 also failed to find agreement on how to proceed on North Korea.

Mr Hague said the G8 ministers condemned the country's "continued work on missile and nuclear weapons programmes".

But beyond a continuation of sanctions, there were no signs of any new measures agreed.

A statement issued at the end of the meeting said the ministers were "appalled that more than 70,000 people have been killed" in the Syrian conflict.

Mr Hague, who hosted the talks, declared himself satisfied with a series of "excellent and productive discussions" over the two days.

The meetings led to pledges of increased support for Syrians but no suggestion that such support would go beyond the current non-lethal kind. And while Mr Assad's government was condemned for a human rights violations, Mr Hague could only vow to "intensify our work" with the opposition.

"The Assad regime continues to show a flagrant disregard for human rights and human life and continues to do so. And now is the time for a Syrian-led political transition that respects the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organisation with a network of activists on the ground, said at least 57 people, including women and children, had been killed in fighting during a government counter-offensive in Deraa, in Syria's border region with Jordan.

The toll comes as Human Rights Watch released a report accusing the Syrian government of "indiscriminate and, in some cases, deliberate, air strikes against civilians".


With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse

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