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Syria

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2015

Following my recent discussions in Vienna, an International Syria Support Group will now meet on a regular basis, in parallel with Syrian-led discussions between the opposition and the regime facilitated by the UN, to take forward a transition process for that country. The UK will work with our international partners to maintain momentum in this important endeavour.

Is it not clearer than ever that the presence of ISIS in Syria represents an immediate threat to our national security? Given that the UK has significant military assets that could make a significant contribution to the fight against ISIS, is it not incumbent on us in this House to support our allies, and our failure to do so would cause complete bewilderment on their part?

It is true that we do have military capabilities, in particular the precision weapons available on Tornado aircraft, that would make a difference to the military battle on the ground in Syria. It is incumbent on us—and we have accepted this challenge—not only to make the case for military intervention, but to set that case in a broader context of a comprehensive approach to the Syria problem. The Prime Minister has taken on himself the responsibility of delivering his comprehensive strategy to the House.

It is ever more apparent that, unless we deal with the biggest recruitment sergeant for Daesh in Syria, namely the aerial bombardments and other abuses of civilians by the Assad regime, we will not tackle the cancer that is Daesh. Will the Secretary of State say a little more on how he plans to sequence and prioritise strategic UK engagement in efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political transition alongside a comprehensive plan to tackle Daesh?

Yes, we will do it through the International Syria Support Group that we have set up. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we will not get a ceasefire or the opposition groups working with the rump of regime forces against Daesh unless and until they can be clear that Assad is going at a clear and defined point in the transition process. At the moment, we do not have agreement across the ISSG, particularly with the Russians and the Iranians, about that point. That is where we have to go, and the fundamental thrust of all our discussions is around trying to get agreement on a route for an exit by Assad so that the rest of the pieces of this jigsaw can drop into place.