Skip to main content

Aleppo Bombings

Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 18 October 2016

6. What representations he has made to his Russian counterparts on the bombings of civilian areas and humanitarian aid convoys in Aleppo. (906642)

I met Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in New York on 21 September, which was two days after the bombing of the aid convoy, and we obviously focused on Syria in those discussions. As I have told the House already, I pressed him to do what I think the world wants Russia to do, which is to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime to have a ceasefire.

The Foreign Secretary may not be its biggest fan, but even the European Council yesterday found that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and its targeting of civilians are war crimes. Having now distanced himself from demos at the embassy, will he make sure that the UK leads in advocating UN veto restraint, because as long as Russia has such a “get out of jail free” card, resolutions will be ignored and an appalling situation will get worse?

The hon. Lady will be interested to know that at that European Council—I participated in it fully and, if I may say so, happily, because we are still fully paid-up members—the UK delegation introduced language specifically targeting Russia and took out language seeking to create a false equivalence between Russia and the US.

Does my right hon. Friend remember that in 2005, Her Majesty’s Government, along with every other member of the General Assembly of the United Nations, signed up to the responsibility to protect? Having just voted to take back control in this country, is it not appalling that we are bowing down to a bully in the middle east who, instead of taking seriously their responsibility to protect, is brutalising and murdering millions of people in Syria?

My hon. Friend is quite right. As you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, the UK has been in the lead in the UN Security Council in bringing pressure to bear on Russia not just on its use of chemical weapons, but on its continuing refusal to get the Syrian regime to have a ceasefire. Furthermore, we are in the lead in trying to bring all responsible parties to the International Criminal Court.

In response to this and other atrocities, the Foreign Secretary said in the Commons last week that “more kinetic options” should be considered, but then only the day before yesterday, emerging from his talks, he said there was little interest, to say the least. Please will he reassure the House that the UK will play its full role in urging other nations to accept that that may be the only way to make Russia back down?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I have to say that I admire his spirit and the urgency that he has brought to this debate. I think the mood is certainly changing in this country. I do not yet detect a sufficient appetite in the capitals of the west, and certainly not yet in the White House, for the kind of action that I think could be useful, but, as Secretary Kerry said, nothing is “off the table”.