British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday urged Syrian opposition groups to unite to halt extremists gaining influence in the country, as new leaders for the movement were elected in Doha.
Hague, speaking during a visit to India, said that opposition factions had to work together to end the conflict in Syria which erupted last year when protesters took to the streets to demand the fall of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The longer the conflict in Syria goes on, the greater is the opportunity for extremist groups to gain a foothold,” Hague told reporters in New Delhi.
“This is a serious danger (and) one of the reasons why it is important for opposition groups to work together, as we are encouraging them to do.”
The main opposition Syrian National Council said on Thursday that after meetings in Doha it had elected a new leadership.
Some 400 SNC members voted from lists of groups opposed to Assad ranging from liberals to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as ethnic minorities and tribes.
Islamists, including at least five Muslim Brotherhood members, account for around a third of the new secretariat.
“In this terrible crisis for their country it is important that (opposition groups) come together on a common platform,” Hague said after meeting his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid.
He added that Britain would continue to increase humanitarian assistance to the opposition, including “non-lethal support” such as communication equipment.
On Wednesday, Hague said Britain would begin direct talks with military figures in Syria’s armed opposition groups.