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Hague vows backing for US on Syria
Britain will continue to "work closely" with the USA on finding a solution to the civil war in Syria, despite Parliament's vote against joining president Barack Obama in military action, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.
Mr Hague was speaking after talks at the Foreign Office in London with US secretary of state John Kerry at the end of his whirlwind tour of Europe to drum up support for punitive action against the regime of president Bashar Assad for its use of chemical weapons on civilians in a suburb of Damascus last month.
Mr Kerry insisted that Britain's decision not to join the US in military strikes would not damage the special relationship between the countries, insisting that Washington had "no better partner" than the UK. He said he appreciated the feelings of those on both sides of the Atlantic who are reluctant to get embroiled in the two-and-a-half year civil war in Syria.
But he said: "I think it would be good to hear people saying to a dictator `Keep your hands off chemical weapons that kill your own people. Protect your own people'. I think it is important for us to stand up as nations for civility and against actions that challenge notions of humanity and decency and appropriate international behaviour.
"For almost 100 years, the world has stood together against the use of chemical weapons and we need to hear an appropriate outcry as we think back on those moments in history when large numbers of people have been killed because the world was silent - the Holocaust, Rwanda and other moments are lessons to all of us today."
Mr Kerry will brief Congress on Syria later ahead of a White House address by Mr Obama on Tuesday, designed to swing the Senate and House of Representatives behind military action in a series of votes over the coming weeks.
Mr Hague said that the UK Government "fully respects" the decision of MPs not to back proposals in the Commons which would have paved the way to an eventual vote on British participation in a military strike on Assad.
But he stressed that Britain would nonetheless continue to work to revive peace talks for Syria, to improve the world's humanitarian response, to support the moderate Syrian opposition and to muster "a strong international response" to the use of chemical weapons.
"Our Government supports the objective of ensuring there can be no impunity for the first use of chemical warfare in the 21st century," said Mr Hague. "As an international community, we must deter further attacks and hold those responsible for them accountable."
He added: "This week the EU, the Arab League and many countries of the G20 have called for a strong international response and it is to the credit of the US that once again they are prepared to lead such efforts. They have the full diplomatic support of the UK."