Britain and France urge Syrian opposition to unite

Cameron admits he is not satisfied with international support for revolt against Assad

Britain and France urged the Syrian opposition to uniteon Friday as David Cameron admitted he was not satisfied the international community was doing enough to support the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Cameron and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, meeting at an Anglo-French summit in Paris which also saw deals on the development of civil nuclear power and military drones, announced a modest food programme for the Syrian opposition. But they admitted that the quality of the opposition leadership in and outside Syria is hampering efforts to provide support.

No 10 officials have met the divided Syrian opposition in London and came away unimpressed by comparison with the Libyan opposition.

Sarkozy said: “We cannot bring about a Syrian revolution… if the Syrian revolution does not make an effort to rally together and organise so that we can better help them.

“The principle obstacle… is not just the blockage at the UN. In Libya we couldn’t have had the revolution without the Libyans and we won’t be able to have a Syrian revolution without the Syrian opposition making enough effort to unite that we can support them more.”

“We will not accept that a dictator massacres his people, but the revolution will not be led from outside. Like in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, it must be led from the inside.”

British officials have said the Free Syrian Army, “is neither free nor an army”.

“What is happening in Syria is appalling,” Cameron told a news conference. “I’m not satisfied that we are taking all the action we can.”

In a joint statement, Cameron and Sarkozy pledged that their countries “will continue to increase their engagement with the Syrian opposition, including encouraging the opposition to work together and to support the vision of an inclusive, prosperous and free Syria”. Efforts will be made to unite the opposition at a meeting in Tunis convened by the Friends of Syria Group under French foreign minister Alain Juppé and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

Cameron also said Britain is sending food rations for 20,000 people and medical supplies for those affected by fighting in Homs and elsewhere in Syria.

The Franco-British summit, delayed from last year, focused on agreements to co-operate on civil nuclear power and on a new unmanned drone that could be launched in 2020 – joint research will be led by Dassault and BAE.

On nuclear power, Cameron and Sarkozy announced details of a £500m investment at Hinckley Point in Somerset as part of the Anglo-French nuclear export drive, especially to China.

Cameron endorsed Sarkozy’s efforts to be re-elected president this spring. He also said Franco-British co-operation was at its highest level since the second world war, some of it driven by the need for the two countries to reduce defence costs through greater co-operation.

Sarkozy is trailing behind his socialist rival Francois Hollande, and is due in London soon. It is not normal but not unprecedented for a British prime minister to endorseme a candidate in an overseas election. Cameron privately believes that Sarkozy’s campaigning style will win through.

Cameron said: “(The summit) has given me the chance to wish my friend well in the battle he has ahead.” He joked that he was not sure his presence on the Sarkozy campaign trail would have a positive effect.

Cameron added: “I believe it is a relationship that is easily strong enough to survive the odd bump or bounce that we sometimes have when we have a disagreement. That is what politicians do and it is what friends do as well.”

Sarkozy returned the compliment by describing Cameron as “a very brave man and there are worse things than working with a very brave man”. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Patrick Wintour


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