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Syria war shames humanity says Boris Johnson as he backs opposition peace plan

Published 07/09/2016

Boris Johnson called on Russia and the United States to help create a ceasefire
Boris Johnson called on Russia and the United States to help create a ceasefire

Syria's brutal civil war "shames humanity" and international efforts must be made to allow a new opposition plan for peace to proceed, Boris Johnson has said.

The Foreign Secretary backed new proposals put forward by the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), insisting they represent "a future for Syria that goes beyond the Assad regime".

He said the HNC's plan is a "formidably important document" that represents "a vision and plan for Syria that is democratic, pluralistic, that will take that country forward".

Speaking alongside the HNC's general co-ordinator Riyad Hijab at the Foreign Office, Mr Johnson said: "I hope that their plan is studied by as many people as possible around the world and of course particularly in Syria, because they after all are the people who are at the forefront of our concerns and it's for them that this meeting has been held this afternoon.

"I think that listening to everybody here today in the Foreign Office in London, listening to representatives from across the Middle East, from all our European partners, John Kerry (US Secretary of State) joined us as well by tele-link, listening to everybody, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that with common sense and flexibility and energy this vision, this plan that Dr Hijab and his colleagues have put forward, this can be put into effect."

The umbrella organisation, which Mr Johnson has described as one of the "broadest-based", wants an initial six-month negotiating phase between the regime and the opposition, with a total ceasefire and humanitarian access.

Bashar Assad would then be removed from power and a transitional administration made up of opposition figures and current government and civil society representatives put in place for 18 months.

Following this there would be elections.

Mr Johnson's comments came as violence continued to escalate in the brutal civil war, which he noted has now lasted as long as the Second World War.

The contested city of Aleppo continues to be bombarded, with an air strike killing 10 civilians on Wednesday, according to activists.

It follows an attack in the same area where a suspected chlorine bomb was dropped allegedly by regime forces the day before.

Elsewhere, fighting between Islamic insurgents and government forces in Syria's central Hama province displaced around 100,000 people over eight days.

Earlier, Mr Johnson called on Russia to end its "seemingly indefensible" support for Syrian president Assad's "killing machine" and to work with the United States to help create a ceasefire so the HNC plan can proceed.

Dr Hijab said the HNC had spelled out in detail how a transitional government would work and made clear that the opposition was ready to share power with regime figures who have not committed "crimes against the Syrian people".

He added: "The choice is now clear: ongoing death, violence and terrorism under Assad or a peaceful future leading to a new constitution, and free and fair elections under international supervision.

"The time has come for the international community to no longer stand by - but to help make that peaceful future a reality by insisting on the departure of Assad, and meaningful negotiations on a transition to a democratic and pluralistic Syria."

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