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Syria and Bahrain

House of Lords written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 14 September (WA 78-79), what is their "practical assessment" of the situation on the ground in Syria and Bahrain.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

The United Nation's latest assessment is that regime violence against civilians continues despite the Syrian Government's agreement to an Arab League peace plan. They estimate that over 3,500 people, including 187 children, have been killed and many thousands have been detained since the protests started in March 2011. The most recent unsubstantiated reports estimate that over 300 people have been killed during November alone.

We support the Arab League in its efforts to bring about an end to the killing of Syrian people. The UK has been at the forefront of international action to increase pressure on the Syrian regime to stop the repression. On 22 November an United Nations General Assembly resolution, co-sponsored by 62 countries, including a number of Arab countries, was passed with wide support (122 countries voted in favour) sending a signal of united condemnation of the Syrian regime's systematic human rights abuses. The resolution calls on the Syrian Government to end the appalling violence and implement the Arab League's plan of action without delay. As long as the crisis in Syria continues the international pressure on the Assad regime will only intensify.

In the European Union (EU), the UK has been instrumental in imposing nine rounds of EU sanctions against 74 individuals and 19 entities, targeting those supporting or benefiting from the regime and those associated with them. Most recently the EU listed further military, security and intelligence officials leading military operations in Syria. In addition, the EU has moved to prevent any further disbursement of loans from the European Investment Bank to Syria.

We welcome the publication of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report on 23 November and His Majesty King Hamad of Bahrain's acceptance of the Government's shortcomings during the unrest earlier this year. As the Foreign Secretary, my right honourable friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) expressed in his Statement, we have stressed our series concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain and made it clear that this must urgently be addressed. The report provides an opportunity for the Government and all opposition groups to demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation and contribute to the process of political renewal. Constructive dialogue and effective implementation of reforms remain the best way to bring long-term stability to Bahrain.

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