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Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2011

The situation in Syria continues to be a matter of grave concern. Estimates suggest that at least 3,000 people have been killed since the unrest began, including the documented total of 187 children. We continue to call on the regime to stop killing its own people and to free political prisoners, and we continue to urge other international action in order to show that the legitimacy of the regime has gone.

Syria, much like Iran, continues to brutally suppress its own people, flagrantly abuses human rights, and is still funding international terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel’s borders. What pressure can the Government exert on Syria to stop further bloodshed?

The Government have been in the lead in promoting action in the European Union and the United Nations. The European Union has imposed seven rounds of sanctions on Syria, involving some 56 individuals and 19 entities, and most recently has put pressure on its oil exports, which constitute some 25% of its revenue. Further efforts will be made in the United Nations, although unfortunately a resolution that we had helped to draw up was vetoed by Russia and China on 4 October. It is vital for the United Nations to speak with one voice in its condemnation of what is happening in Syria.

The Minister is absolutely right that the veto by Russia and China was a disgrace, but what can be done to achieve solidarity from Turkey and Arab neighbours of Syria, who can have enormous influence both on Damascus and at the United Nations?

Yes, they can; the hon. Gentleman knows that from his own background knowledge. Last week I met Foreign Ministers representing Arab League countries. They have a delegation that is due to go to Syria on 26 October, and they have increasingly stepped up their concern. The hon. Gentleman is right that they must ensure that their leverage in relation to Syria—which may well be greater than ours—is used to benefit the Syrian people. We have been in close contact with Turkey, which continues to lend support to our efforts for more to be done internationally. It is essential that the international community speaks with one voice and that the Syrian regime stops killing its people and begins a transition.