William Hague said Britain and its allies must “do more” to save innocent lives in Syria last night, after talks in Washington failed to yield any movement on calls to arm rebel fighters who are losing ground to resurgent Syrian government forces back by Iran and Hezbollah.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Washington with his US counterpart John Kerry, both men said they had “nothing to announce” when asked whether the US and its allies were preparing to give additional support to the rebels.
Mr Kerry and Mr Hague were speaking a day after Syrian rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front were accused of carrying out a sectarian massacre in which 60 Shia Muslim villagers were killed in Hatla, a settlement in the east of the country.
Mr Hague berated the Syrian president President Bashar al-Assad for waging “a campaign of murder and tyranny” that threatened to destabilise the entire Middle East region, and called for further action to reach a political solution in the conflict.
“The United Kingdom believes that the situation demands a strong, coordinated, and determined approach by the UK, the US, and our allies in Europe and the region,” said Mr Hague.
“We will have to be prepared to do more to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously and to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism if diplomatic efforts are going to succeed,” he warned.
Mr Kerry’s language was more muted, however, speaking after a reported week of meetings with the White House and other US government agencies to discuss the “various balances in this issue right now”.
Lobbyists for the Free Syrian Army in Washington have told The Telegraph that they are hoping for an expansion of US assistance from the current levels, which include food and medicine, to non-lethal military equipment such as body armour and night-vision goggles.
However a spokesman for the Syrian Support Group said they were not expecting imminent movement from the US.
The White House, which has consistently rebuffed calls for greater US intervention, also denied specific discussions were taking place, saying only that they were “constantly evaluating” the situation in Syria and that Mr Obama wanted a “rigorous process” to assess whether to change US policy on the conflict.
“The situation on the ground continues to worsen with elevated levels of violence with the participation of Hezbollah and Iran,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, “And the President has made clear that he rules no option out and he’s constantly evaluating his policy options.” David Cameron confirmed yesterday that Syria would be discussed at next week’s G8 meeting in Ireland, but that no decision had been taken on whether to arm the rebels.
“What we want is not a continuation of conflict but what we want is a transition. We want to have a transitional government in which all of the Syrian people can have confidence,” he told the Foreign Press Association.
“The only disagreement here politically in the UK, and I would argue probably across Europe, is how you get that transitional – how you get that transitional government. But I believe we’re taking the right steps.” In one small step, the US announced it had eased restrictions on trade with Syria’s opposition, aimed at helping supply critical needs of Syrians in “liberated areas”.