Skip to main content


Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2014

13. What assessment he has made of the prospects for successful peace talks on Syria; and if he will make a statement. (902796)

The Syria crisis is worsening by the day, with no sign of the Assad regime having any willingness to negotiate the political transition demanded by the UN Security Council. The second round of Geneva II negotiations ended on 15 February without agreement. Those supporting the regime, including Russia and Iran, need to do far more to press it to reach a political settlement.

The war in Syria is a tragedy for its people, who have seen their lives, families and homes torn apart, and for the region, which has seen millions of refugees displaced to neighbouring countries. What steps are this Government taking to alleviate the tragedy, promote regional stability and do all they can to prevent a contagion of this crisis?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in his description. I probably cannot describe all those things in one answer to a question, but in our efforts to alleviate the crisis UK aid is now providing: food for more than 210,000 people a month; water for 1.4 million people; and cooking sets and blankets for 300,000 people. So he can see the scale of the assistance that is being delivered. Tomorrow, I will attend the International Support Group for Lebanon meeting in Paris, where we will be working with other nations on providing the necessary assistance to help stabilise Lebanon, too.

I realise that relations with Russia are rather difficult at the moment, but will the Foreign Secretary renew his efforts to talk to Iran and Russia to bring about a renewal of Geneva II, a ceasefire and then some kind of political solution? The crisis in Syria cannot be ignored just because of events that are happening elsewhere.

Yes is the basic answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question. I assure him that although Ukraine occupies a great deal of attention, all our work and the pace of our work on Syria will be maintained. We are suggesting to Russia and others that there should be new work and meetings among the permanent five members of the Security Council to try again to make a diplomatic breakthrough on Syria—I cannot hold out any prospect of that at the moment—and of course we will hold discussions with Iran, so the answer to his question is yes.

I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on winning the 2014 Clinton prize for women, peace and security for his leadership on preventing sexual violence in conflict. Given the widespread violence against women and girls in Syria, what steps is he taking to ensure that women are properly represented and properly heard as he attempts to renew Geneva II?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have advocated the inclusion of women to a greater extent in the peace talks on Syria. A women’s action group was formed in parallel with the Geneva II negotiations, and I went to meet its members in Geneva and have invited them to visit the UK. I constantly urge the UN, including the UN Special Envoy, to ensure that women’s representatives are included in future negotiations. I am pleased that the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces ensured that women were represented in its delegation.

Recent suicide attacks in Lebanon have shown the intense danger of the Syrian conflict expanding beyond the borders of Syria. After the end of the Geneva talks last month, what efforts is the Foreign Secretary making to discuss with the UN a process to bring the parties back to Geneva and to begin the process of negotiation that is so desperately needed?

The hon. Gentleman is right to refer to the dangers in Lebanon. As I have said, we shall hold the international support group for Lebanon, which I shall attend, tomorrow in Paris. He is also right to emphasise the importance of bringing the parties back to the table. For that to happen, the Assad regime has to be ready to discuss the creation of a transitional governing body. The offer that Lakhdar Brahimi made to both sides when the talks last ended was that they would discuss terrorism, as the regime describes it, and a transitional governing body, as the Opposition wanted, in parallel. The regime refused to do that, but it needs to become ready to do that for the talks to get going again.