British MPs have written to William Hague to express concern about possible UK military action in Syria and to seek information on the legal basis for it.
The Commons foreign affairs committee (FAC) has also asked the foreign secretary to consult parliament before providing any military support to the Syrian opposition, warning that the circumstances are different from the Nato intervention in Libya last year.
Richard Ottaway, the FAC chairman, told Hague: “Grave concerns have been expressed by some members … about the value, legitimacy, and legality of western intervention in Syria.” The internal situation in Syria was complex and the international community divided, with Russia strongly opposed to western intervention. The background and circumstances were very different to those present before the 2011 coalition intervention in Libya, which had the backing of a UN resolution.
“At the time of our intervention in Libya, the government published a summary of the legal advice it had received, which concluded that UN resolutions provided a ‘clear and unequivocal’ legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets to Libya,” Ottaway wrote. “Has the government sought legal advice on the lawfulness of, and international legal basis for, any form of additional UK intervention in Syria? If so, following the Libyan precedent, will it provide to the house a summary of this advice?”
Ottaway cited recent developments including Britain joining France, Turkey and the Gulf states in recognising the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people; reports that France and possibly the US, are providing arms to the opposition, and confirmation from David Cameron that the EU would be re-examinig its arms embargo on Syria. “We must now explore all options to help the opposition and to enable greater support for the protection of civilians,” the prime minister said.