Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Tuesday, 17 April 2012 15:50 UK

Foreign Office questions

There is "no doubt" that the Syrian government will try to obstruct a team of international observers sent by the UN to monitor the fragile ceasefire in the country, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

At question time in the Commons on 17 April 2012, Mr Hague drew attention to the wording of the UN Security Council resolution authorising the presence of the observers, which calls for them to be able to carry out their work "unhindered".

But he warned that President Assad's regime had only respected the ceasefire "in the most grudging terms", and had "continued to kill as many people as they could in the opposition to the last possible moment".

The strategy would prove to be counter-productive, he predicted.

"I think the behaviour of the regime... can only help to solidify and intensify the opposition. It is an encouragement to them because it shows what an appalling and murderous regime they are up against," he said.

Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Sir Malcolm Rifkind reminded the foreign secretary of the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, agreed by the UN in 2005.

An effective blockade of arms arriving in Syria would save civilians' lives, he said.

Such a blockade would be "extremely difficult" to implement, Mr Hague replied. But he vowed to "return to the security council for further measures", should President Assad fail to respect the terms of the current resolution.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said his party "welcomed the deployment of observers... and the fact that they have now started arriving in Damascus".

Foreign Office: Government and opposition

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