UK foreign secretary labels Syrian violence 'appalling'

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the ongoing violence in Syria “appalling”, during a joint press conference on Monday with his South African counterpart.

Both Hague and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane stressed the importance of the Arab League’s role in reaching an end to the bloodshed in the country.

Hague had earlier issued a statement, backing the urgent discussion of a call by Arab League foreign ministers on the United Nations Security Council to form a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force to observe a ceasefire in Syria.

During the press conference in Cape Town, Hague said a peacekeeping force could save lives but would likely only be deployed once the government crackdown on protesters ended, local radio reported.

He also said soldiers for the force would not come from Western nations.

Negotiated solution
South African officials said Pretoria did not reject the idea of supporting a peacekeeping force in the future but for now remained focused on urgently reaching a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Mashabane and Hague also talked about bilateral trade between Britain and South Africa, which declined by more than a third during the global economic crisis, after growing 77.4% between 2001 and 2008.

The two also privately discussed other African countries in crisis, including Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

An international conference on Somalia will be hosted by the British government in London on February 23, with more than 40 nations expected to attend.

During his trip to South Africa, Hague is expected to meet with the large Somali diaspora community in the country.

On Zimbabwe, Hague said the EU was reconsidering some sanctions and an announcement could be made soon.—Sapa

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