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The crisis in Syria

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with national protests against the ruling Ba’ath Party calling for the resignation of President Assad and demanding legitimate rights. Over 150,000 people have been killed since March 2011 and more are dying each week, mostly at the hands of the Assad regime and extremist groups such as ISIL.

To date, the UK has committed over £700 million in aid in response to the humanitarian situation. Over 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 3 million of whom have been forced to become refugees in neighbouring countries.

We believe that the crisis in Syria can only be ended through a negotiated political settlement as set out in the Geneva Communiqué agreed in June 2012 by the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and the League of Arab States. Elections held by the regime on the 3rd June 2014, at the height of a civil war, can only be seen as a cruel farce and lack any credibility, given that millions of Syrians living outside regime areas or as refugees in neighbouring countries could not vote and any real opposition to Bashar al-Assad is prohibited from taking part. The Geneva Communiqué is clear that elections can only come at the end of the transition process.

In parallel, on the humanitarian track, UN Security Council Resolution 2139, which demands that the Syrian regime lift its sieges, end the abhorrent and indiscriminate use of barrel bombs in populated areas, and allow the UN and its partners to deliver aid across borders has produced little real improvement for the 9.3 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid. The regime has continued its arbitrary denial of humanitarian access to the Syrians it continues to besiege.

We have made concerted efforts to address this iniquity on the UN Security Council and create the conditions necessary for the regime to return to the negotiating table and take part in serious discussions to bring about a political solution. In support of this objective, the UK is focusing its efforts on three key areas:

  • Strengthening an inclusive opposition, increasing pressure on the regime politically and economically through EU sanctions and isolating Assad while working for a political resolution with international support;

  • Managing the humanitarian, human rights and wider impact on Syria/region, pushing for a new, stronger humanitarian resolution on the UN Security Council and increasing funding for cross-border aid deliveries to a total of £76 million; and

  • Limiting the terrorist and wider extremist threat to the UK, and chemical/biological weapon use/ proliferation.

On 20 November 2012 the Foreign Secretary set out to Parliament that the UK had decided to recognise the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people as it has a democratic and pluralist vision for Syria.

Since the start of the revolution, the UK has been at the forefront of providing the moderate opposition with practical and political support. This year we have provided more than £20 million in support to save lives and provide services to the Syrian population. This support includes training and equipping civil defence teams to carry out fire fighting and search and rescue; training over 300 Syrian journalists and activists helping to develop an independent Syrian media; funding local level peace-building projects within Syria and between communities in neighbouring countries where refugees are based.

The government is also responding to serious human rights concerns in Syria. In partnership with other donor countries, we have funded the collection of documentary evidence of Human Rights abuses and funded Law of Armed Conflict training to help armed groups understand their responsibilities and obligations under international law and international Human Rights standards. Most recently we have started funding a multi-donor project to support the Free Syrian Police, who are responsible for providing basic civilian policing in large areas of opposition controlled territory.

We have also played an important role in UN Human Rights Council discussions on the escalating human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation, and in resolutions adopted by the Council on 1 and 23 March 2012 condemning these human rights violations. On 28 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly also adopted an Arab-led resolution on the human rights situation in Syria condemning the widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed by the Syrian regime and its militia.

For the latest updates on the UK’s humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria, please visit: