Hague urges Syrian support for Middle East deal

By Jennifer Lipman, January 28, 2011
President Basher al-Assad

President Basher al-Assad

William Hague has called on Syria to “support efforts towards a comprehensive peace with Israel”.

Mr Hague, who is in Syria for his first official visit as Foreign Secretary, also said that the British government’s position is to oppose settlement building and support Syria’s claim on the Golan Heights, which have been under Israeli control for 44 years.

He pledged Britain’s backing for “all those truly working towards a peaceful and lasting settlement” but said any deal should be “based on 1967 borders and involve a just settlement for refugees as well as Jerusalem as the capital of both states”.

He added: “We support the fundamental right of Israel to live in peace and security”.

Speaking after he met President Basher al-Assad and the country's Foreign Minister, Mr Hague also stressed the need to “engage with Syria on the urgent and dangerous issues confronting the region”.

Noting that the two governments disagree on a number of issues, he said a “frank and active dialogue between Syria and the UK” was crucial.

Referring to the political upheaval in Syria’s neighbour Lebanon, he called on the country to form a government “committed to restraint and the principle of non-violence, as well as a sovereign and independent future for Lebanon”.

Mr Hague also expressed the UK’s disappointment that Iran still refuses to engage “seriously” over its nuclear programme.

He said: “In the absence [of this] peaceful and legitimate international pressure on Iran will only continue and intensify”.

Last updated: 10:24am, January 28 2011