A safe exit and possible immunity from prosecution for President Bashar al-Assad “could be arranged” if it would end Syria’s increasingly bloody conflict, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday before a visit to Saudi Arabia.
Some 32,000 people have been killed in Syria during a revolt against Assad that began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but became an armed rebellion after a deadly military crackdown.
“Done. Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria,” Cameron told Al Arabiya’s Rima Maktabi in Abu Dhabi when asked about offering Assad safe passage.
“Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged,” he said.
The British Prime Minister said there are legal restrictions with the UK providing Syrian opposition with arms and weapons.
“We are a government under international law and we obey the law, so there are restrictions there, but we have helped the opposition with non-lethal equipment,” said Cameron.
Cameron said he fears the violence may prolong and may bring instability to the region.
“A future without Assad, but a future where rights of minorities including Christians should be safe guarded and a future where you have a Syria that is at peace with its neighbours that’s what we all want and so there are great dangers if the situations is allowed to continue,” said Cameron.
He added he believe Britain has played its part enough.
“We played our part in helping the refugees at the border, helping with the opposition, pushing at the United Nation for the strongest possible resolutions, but we are prevented frankly by some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China that don’t want us to go as far as we should,” said Cameron.
Cameron said that Britain’s help in Libya had nothing to do with oil and that Syria’s position is complicated. The British Prime Minister said he is meeting with Arab leaders to discuss a transition for Syria.
“All of us are coming together wanting to see this transition in Syria, wanting to see Assad go,” said Cameron.
“I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if he wants to leave he can leave in a way that could be arranged.”
It was unclear if Cameron had spoken to other U.N. Security Council members about the idea - which could involve offering Assad immunity from prosecution if he accepted asylum in a third country. Nor was it clear what nation would take him.
A spokesman for Cameron suggested separately that an immunity deal could - reluctantly - be put on the table.
“Clearly we would like Assad to face justice for what he has done, but our priority, given the situation in that country, has to be an end to violence and a transition. And that cannot take place while Assad remains in place,” the spokesman said.
The U.N. human rights office has said Syrian officials suspected of committing or ordering crimes against humanity should face prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
U.N. human rights investigators have been gathering evidence of atrocities committed by armed rebels as well as by government forces and pro-Assad militia.
Visiting the Middle East on a trade and diplomacy trip, Cameron is expected to discuss Syria with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah as well as other regional and commercial issues.
Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate Assad’s government and has orchestrated Arab League moves to impose sanctions. Last month, Riyadh expelled Syrian consulate workers, after having expelled Syria’s ambassador in March.