UK confirms contribution to Syrian moderate opposition training programme

3 March 2015 (Last Updated March 3rd, 2015 18:30)

The UK Government intends to contribute to a US-led programme to train the Syrian moderate rebels at training sites across the Middle East, the country's defence secretary Michael Fallon has revealed.

The UK Government intends to contribute to a US-led programme to train the Syrian moderate rebels at training sites across the Middle East, the country's defence secretary Michael Fallon has revealed.

The US, along with its coalition partners, aims to establish a programme to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to better fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the country.

During a visit to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Fallon emphasised Britain's position that IS should be defeated in both Iraq and Syria.

Mr Fallon said: "I reiterated today that Britain intends to contribute to the coalition's training of moderate Syrian opposition.

"This is a fight that ultimately can only be won on the ground, and we the UK is making a major contribution to assist Iraqi forces."

"This is a fight that ultimately can only be won on the ground, and we are making a major contribution to assist Iraqi forces.

"Our aircraft have conducted around 160 strikes and provided vital refuelling capability; and the recently deployed E3-D aircraft will boost the coalition's command and control and surveillance capabilities.

"Our actions and surveillance capabilities are freeing up other countries to strike in Syria."

Britain has already supplied heavy machine guns and ammunition to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and also trained them to use the weapons in fight against the insurgents.

Since October 2014, the Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 fighters and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft systems have been launching airstrikes on the militants in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has laid a departmental Minute that propose the gifting of search and rescue equipment to civil defence teams operating in opposition-controlled areas of Syria.

In a written statement to the Parliament, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the country intends to gift £3.5m in equipment, including cutting and rescue tools, personal protective gear including helmets and goggles, stretchers, medicines and medical supplies, as well as radios, firefighting equipment and 4x4 vehicles to the teams.

The £10m programme is funded through the Government's Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF).m It will increase coordination between the Syrian Interim Government and civil defence teams, and provide civilian outreach for the teams, Hammond added.

Approximately 200,000 people, of which the majority are civilians, have been killed since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011.