There has been a worrying deterioration in the human rights situation in Syria recently, with the arrest of a number of prominent members of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration. Our ambassador in Damascus raised these cases directly with the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister on 29 January, calling for the release of all those detained. My honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East, Kim Howells, also raised this issue in another place on 28 January 2008 (Official Report, cols. 141-146) and a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman made a statement on 5 February calling for the release of the human rights activists. In addition, the EU presidency, with full UK support, made a statement on 1 February 2008 condemning the recent deterioration in the situation. Our embassy in Damascus, working closely with other EU missions, continues to press the Syrians to improve conditions in general, as well as to raise individual cases of concern.