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Politics & press news – Embassy 43

Syrian ‘rebel Ambassador’ to UK named

The Syrian National Coalition has named human rights activist Mr Walid Saffour as its representative to the UK.

Mr Saffour is the President of the Syrian Human Rights Committee, a UK-based organisation that for more than a decade has exposed human rights abuses in Syria.

Mr Saffour met with the FCO’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa, David Quarrey, who laid out the UK’s support for the National Coalition as it sets out a plan for political transition.

The appointment came shortly after Foreign Secretary William Hague made a statement to Parliament announcing the UK government’s decision to recognise the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian People”.

In his statement, Mr Hague said he had been satisfied with the assurances given to him by the Syrian National Coalition that they would be ”a moderate political force committed to democracy, and not to repeat the abuses of the Assad regime”.

The UK government also pledged £53 million for humanitarian assistance in Syria.

In a written statement, Europe Minister David Lidington added the UK Government would push to amend the  EU arms embargo, making it “more flexible” so that the EU would be able to offer  “practical support to the Syrian opposition”.

Ambassadors from Syria’s neighbouring countries welcomed Britain’s moves but called for renewed efforts to come to an agreement with Russia to facilitate a UN-sponsored diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Meanwhile the spokesman for the Assad regime, Jihad Makdissi, known to diplomats in London as the former press secretary at the Syrian Embassy, has been “authorised” to leave Syria, according to Presidential Palace officials.

Observers speculate that Makdissi may have been allowed to leave the country in exchange for securing immunity and safe passage out of Syria for the Assad family.

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FCO Middle East Director David Quarrey meets Walid Saffour, the new Syrian National Coalition representative to the UK

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