Britain is to begin talks with armed opposition groups in Syria as it seeks to help end the violence, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Wednesday.
The government has authorised officials to have contacts with military representatives of the groups, Downing Street said, although government sources stressed the initative was about political dialogue, not providing weapons.
The announcement was made as Cameron toured a desert refugee camp for Syrians in northern Jordan, on the third and final leg of a tour of the Middle East that also took him to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Dressed casually in black trousers, a grey shirt and a sporting a Remembrance poppy, Cameron took time to speak to some of the more than 36,000 Syrians housed in tents and caravans in the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syria border.
The British premier arrived in Jordan on Tuesday night on the last leg of Middle East visit that also took him to the United Arab Emirates and to Saudi Arabia.
On arriving at the camp early morning, Cameron headed to offices of the United Nations, which runs the camp, before touring the facility.
Crowds of excited kids played football but did not seem to know who the visitor was.
"Is he the king?" one of them asked.
Inside the school, a group of children sang to Cameron in Arabic. The prime minister left the camp after visiting the school and was later to hold talks with Jordan's King Abdullah.
A Syrian man carries an injured girl following an air strike by government forces on the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab, 40 kilometers north-east of Aleppo, on November 4. Britain is to begin talks with armed opposition groups in Syria as it seeks to help end the violence, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Wednesday,
Jordan says it is hosting more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, who have fled violence ravaging their homeland since a popular uprising erupted more than 19 months ago.
Britain will also be increasing its aid to Syrian refugees by £14 million (17.5 million euros, $22.5 million), Downing Street said, bringing the total to more than £50 million.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya television on Tuesday, Cameron said he would support giving safe passage to President Bashar al-Assad if it meant ending the bloodshed in Syria.
He highlighted the need to help the opposition, without elaborating how.
"We must ask ourselves what more can we do: how can we help the opposition? How can we put the pressure on Assad? How can we work with partners in the region to turn this around?" Cameron said.
But when asked about arming the rebels, he said: "We are not currently planning to do that. We are a government under international law and we obey the law."
Media reports said Britain's envoy to the Syrian opposition, John Wilkes, would arrange meetings in third countries to initiate talks with the rebels.
British officials stressed that they would make clear to the Syrian groups that they must respect human rights.
Further details on the talks are due to be set out in a statement to the British parliament published later on Wednesday.