Alyson King, the UK government’s Arabic spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa, renewed London’s commitment to achieving a political solution in Syria in order to put an end to the conflict in the war-torn country, which she described as “one of the most destructive in modern human history” in an interview with SY24.
King said that her government supports the track towards reaching a permanent political settlement in Syria that protects the rights of all Syrians, which is made possible through the United Nations, and looks forward to working with the UN’s Special Syria envoy, Geir Pedersen, to move the process forward.
However, the spokesperson blamed the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its backers for the poor progress made in these efforts. According to King, the Syrian regime and Russia bear responsibility for the failure to move ahead with forming a balanced and representative constitutional committee, which is central to the political peace process.
In January, the United Kingdom and EU partners imposed new sanctions against 5 institutions and 11 individuals tied to the Syrian government, including prominent business personalities and officials. The move comes in conjunction with various international efforts intended to punish the Assad government for its gross human rights violations, and undermine efforts by Russia and other allies of the regime to exonerate it and rehabilitate its standing within the international community.
King told SY24: “The organisations and individuals targeted by the sanctions have been carefully chosen. They are beneficiaries of the regime’s land seizure policy, who profit from their relationship with the Assad government and thus back it financially.” In 2018, the Syrian government passed new regulations on property under the banner of Law 10, which critics say allows the regime to expropriate land and property from vulnerable Syrians, including refugees and dissidents. King said the recent restrictions imposed by the UK and EU aim to send a clear message to the regime and to private investors, that reconstruction efforts ought to respect the property rights of Syrians, to allow for them to return home safely. She added that her government continues to consider sanctions aimed at preventing the repression of Syrian civilians, and at pressuring the regime to engage in the political process.
In recent months, efforts to normalise relationships with Damascus increased regionally, with a number of Arab states moving to reopen embassies in Syria, and calling for the return of the Assad government to the Arab League. Spokesperson King commented on the events, saying that while other countries determine their own representation in Damascus and their own relationship with the regime, the position of the United Kingdom “has not changed”. King added, “The Assad regime lost its legitimacy due to the atrocities it has committed against the Syrian people. That is why we closed our embassy in Damascus in 2012, and have no plans to reopen it until a political settlement is achieved through negotiations.”
On the other hand, King said that the UK remains the second largest contributor to humanitarian efforts in Syria since 2012, with the government having allocated 2.71 billion pounds ($3.51 billion) to humanitarian response in the country, since the beginning of the conflict. King rejected the suggestion that international donors, including the UK, are moving towards halting funding for organisations offering aid and other vital services for Syrians, saying, “The UK remains on forefront of humanitarian response in Syria, as it provides life-saving assistance to millions on people around the country.”