UK 'to lead world' on aid for Syrian refugees

 

David Cameron: "We'll help lead the world... and make sure vital aid gets through"

The UK will "lead the world" in getting humanitarian aid to refugees in Syria, David Cameron has vowed.

The prime minister repeated his assurance that there will not be another vote in Parliament on military action after MPs rejected it last week.

But he said the Commons defeat does not mean he can "do nothing" to help those affected by the two-year civil war.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has said MPs should reconsider military action if the US opts to launch strikes.

But Mr Cameron appeared to rule out such an option, saying: "I think Parliament spoke very clearly and it's important to respect the view of Parliament, so I am not planning to return to Parliament to ask again about British military action."

'Vital aid'

He added: "Now, that does not mean we do nothing on Syria. We are already the second largest aid donor in delivering the humanitarian aid that is so needed, both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries like Jordan and Turkey.

"We'll go on doing that. We will help lead the world in that effort and make further efforts at the G20 to make sure that vital aid gets through."

London Mayor Boris Johnson told LBC Radio the UK should remain open to the possibility of UK involvement in Syria

Mr Cameron, who spoke during a school visit in Birmingham, said he would use the G20 meeting of world leaders in Russia later this week to press for help for the refugees as well as progress on diplomatic efforts to secure a stalled peace conference.

The United Nations has warned that one-third of Syria's population have been forced from their homes by the conflict, with another 4.25 million displaced within the country.

Britain's £348m commitment to help those affected by the Syrian conflict had saved "tens of thousands of lives", said Mr Cameron, adding: "It is difficult to get some of the aid into Syria itself but we must continue to try to crack these problems.

"Britain, as ever, is a world leader in helping those who need help and the people of Syria are right up there at the front of that right now."

Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier told MPs Britain "will do more" to help the relief effort.

'Mutual consent'

US President Barack Obama is expected to use the G20 meeting in St Petersburg to rally other world leaders in support of US action, although his efforts are unlikely to sway G20 host host Vladimir Putin, a long-term backer of President Assad.

Mr Obama has indicated that he is "confident" of getting approval from Congress for a US military response to chemical weapons attacks on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus on 21 August.

Start Quote

If you see someone gassing innocent civilians, that is a chilling, chilling memory for people in Europe of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s ”

End Quote

Syria is not on the formal agenda for the G20 summit, but Downing Street made clear that Mr Cameron expects to take part in intensive discussions during the gathering.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, for Labour, said the UK government should have pushed for Syria to be part of the G20's formal agenda, rather than being discussed "on the margins".

But Foreign Secretary William Hague said the venue for discussions was not the issue, but how "we bring about a transitional government in Syria, formed from government and opposition by mutual consent".

He also told MPs Britain was prepared to talk to Iran about Syria, but cautioned MPs about the possibility of success, given that country's previous record on the issue.

"The test for Iran is whether it is prepared to play a constructive role, because Iran has, from all the evidence presented, been actively supporting the Syrian regime, including in the killing of so many innocent people in Syria. It hasn't played a constructive role so far but we are prepared to talk to it."

In other developments on Tuesday Israel carried out a joint missile test with the US in the Mediterranean, as Congress prepared for its first public hearings on whether the US should launch military action.

London Mayor Boris Johnson says he believed Congress would back President Obama in next week's vote and the British Parliament should "think again" about UK involvement in military action in Syria.

'Retribution'

Asked what could be achieved by bombing Syria, Mr Johnson said: "It will show that in the end, when a tyrant decides to use unlawful weapons, gas, to murder innocent civilians, we will not stand idly by."

He told London radio station LBC 97.3: "I have been very hostile and sceptical about British involvement in Syria - we all remember what happened in Iraq. But if you see someone gassing innocent civilians, that is a chilling, chilling memory for people in Europe of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and of the cost of doing nothing."

Mr Johnson added: "What I have said is if it can be proved that it really was the Assad regime that was responsible, and there's more proof, there's more evidence coming in, and if the Americans - who after all are the only real power that has the men and the material to deliver any retribution - can come up with a plan that is coherent, that is limited, that is punitive in some way but does not actually engage the West in some long-term commitment in a Syrian conflict, then I think there is a case for Britain looking again at whether or not we should participate."

If President Obama secured the backing of US politicians, Mr Johnson said "in those circumstances I think it would be appropriate for us to look at what new evidence there is, look at what the Americans are actually proposing, see whether it's coherent, see whether it's limited, see whether it's commensurate with what has happened, see whether it will deliver a plausible outcome".

He added: "I think it would be reasonable in those circumstances for Parliament to think again."

 

More on This Story

Syria conflict

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 611.

    Yes, we have our own problems here at home that must be tackled, but there is a grave sense of ignorance when folks say these problems are generally on the same level as the abhorrent refugee troubles in Syria.

    As a rich nation, we should be leading by example. It is a moral imperative. We should NOT be the only ones though. The wealthy Middle East and Asia should too be searching their pockets..

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 485.

    I wish DC would put the country ahead of his personal legacy/ego.

    The truth is that the middle east is not a deprived area of the world and I think countries with closer ties to Syria should bear the brunt of the humanitarian crisis.

    It is not beyond the realms of possibility that humanitarian aid can have a destabilizing effect.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 444.

    My daughter is about to start her education in an overpopulated, make-shift shed. I have a 2 year old who, it seems, is going to have to contend with even bigger classes .... I'd rather use the hundreds of millions that will be used on intervention in Syria our own children, and then use the spare if there is any !!

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 439.

    Military intervention would be wrong on all levels, providing aid and assistance to innocent victims and refugees is morally right and something that would make me proud to be British. Yes we,as a country are hard up but we cannot stand by. I do think we must also oblige rich Arab countries to use there wealth and influence to end this bloodshed.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 301.

    What a world it is when when we stand by & debate the intolerable suffering of our fellow human race, arguing amongst ourselves over who has the morale ground............

    but then your life is not at stake is it...............ah well

 

Comments 5 of 11

 

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • FrogsBright...but deadly

    The vivid skin of the Amazon's golden poison arrow frog contains toxins strong enough to kill a human

Programmes

  • Islamic StateClick Watch

    Can the location of Islamic State militants be found with open source data?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.