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House of Commons Hansard
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12 January 2016
Volume 604
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4. What diplomatic support the Government are providing to the countries surrounding Syria to help displaced people. [902966]

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The UK has provided £559 million to help the 4.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. I will visit Turkey later this week, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will visit Jordan and Lebanon, in both cases to discuss the conference on supporting Syria and the region that we will co-host with Kuwait, Germany, Norway and the United Nations in London early next month. The purpose of that conference is to secure significantly greater international support for Syria and for the refugee host countries.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the UK can be proud of the response to the UN appeal for aid for those suffering in Syria? That includes, if I may say so with you in the Chair, Mr Speaker, the response of many Members of this House, including you, to my own Singing for Syrians initiative—

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Give us a song!

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I will not give the House a song, but I might be able to give the final figure at some time in the next few weeks.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that other countries should follow our lead?

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Yes, and I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s Singing for Syrians initiative. That and initiatives like it show an extraordinary solidarity with the Syrian refugees. Yes, other countries should do more. The UK is the second largest donor to the Syrian humanitarian crisis, after the United States. We can be incredibly proud of that record. I am also proud that the Syrian conference we will hold on 4 February will not just ask people to pledge additional money. We will go to the conference with innovative ideas, worked out with the Governments of Jordan and Turkey, to allow refugees proper access to the workplace in their host countries and to healthcare and education in a way that provides holistic support for those refugees, not just a UN handout.

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Of course, there would be fewer displaced people to Syria’s neighbours if Russia stopped its despicable bombing of civilians. Has the Foreign Secretary had a chance to confirm reports that on Saturday the Syrian Emergency Task Force’s humanitarian headquarters in the city of Idlib were bombed by Russia, and what representations can the UK make on that?

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We make regular representations to the Russians, first about the indiscriminate nature of their bombing, including the bombing of civilian areas, and secondly about the fact that they are still, for the overwhelming majority of their airstrikes, targeting the moderate opposition fighting the Syrian regime, not Daesh.

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Stability in Syria and the region requires the removal of Daesh. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Iraqi forces on the recent liberation of Ramadi, and when will he hold the next counter-ISIL/Daesh coalition meeting?

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I join in the congratulations to the Iraqi armed forces on their achievement in liberating Ramadi. It is but one step in a challenging process of ridding Syria of the evil of Daesh, but we will support the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi armed forces in that endeavour.

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Yesterday the Secretary of State for International Development confirmed that yesterday marked the first time that food aid could be provided via convoy to the people of Madaya, as agreed with the Syrian regime. I have read newspaper reports today that there was a food aid delivery last October. Could the Foreign Secretary confirm the number of occasions the United Nations has requested humanitarian aid from the UK Government in relation to Madaya and how many times we have responded positively to such a request?

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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made a statement on that issue yesterday. The specific question asked is properly an issue for her Department, so I will ask her to write to the hon. Lady. What I can say to the House is that the use of starvation as a tool of warfare is illegal in international law—it is a breach of international humanitarian law—and we have made that point repeatedly to the Syrian regime and to the Russians.

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There are currently some 16,000 refugees on the Syrian side of the Jordanian border, and Jordan has offered to help with their dispersal. Could the Foreign Secretary update us on what support we are giving to the Jordanians?

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We are helping and supporting the Jordanians with the Zaatari refugee camp. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will be in Jordan later this week, discussing that, among other issues. There has been an upsurge in fighting in the southern area of Syria, with Syrian Government troops, supported by Russian airstrikes, becoming active in a part of the theatre that has been quiet for quite a long time. That is deeply destabilising for Jordan and puts at risk the possibility of supporting the refugees to whom the right hon. Lady refers.