The government should use this year’s anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe to reflect “on a time when Britain did not flinch” when it comes to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the House of Commons defence committee, warned against the UK and the West continuing to “watch on” as hospitals are bombed and children freeze in winter conditions in Syria’s Idlib.
The former defence minister highlighted recent Sky News’ reporting on the actions of the Syrian regime against the country’s civilians in the northwestern city.
He called for a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians.
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Ellwood said: “As we saw in the reports on Sky News over the weekend, [Bashar] al- Assad continues his advance, deliberately bombing hospitals and also causing infants to freeze in the cold winter.
“Yet again, attempts by the UN Security Council are vetoed by Russia, so the prospect of a bloodbath grows higher – as does direct conflict between Turkey and Syria.
“The words come again from the West, but we continue to watch on.”
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Mr Ellwood expressed concern that the United Nations could “go the way” of the League of Nations, which collapsed on the outbreak of the Second World War.
He suggested “the West’s growing reputation to hesitate is giving ever greater confidence for non-Western alliances to pursue their own agendas, knowing the West is likely to respond only with words”.
Mr Ellwood added: “We soon celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, reflecting on a time when Britain did not flinch from its international duty in stepping forward when other nations hesitate.
“If ‘Global Britain’ is to mean anything in this dangerous and complex world, now is the time to show it.”
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Responding on the government’s behalf, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly did not address the issue of a no-fly zone.
As well as criticising Russia’s role in the conflict, he told Mr Ellwood: “There is a challenge between, I suppose, the UK taking what he might describe as a more active role, and the need for a sustainable solution which is agreed to both by the protagonists in the region itself, and the surrounding nations.”
But he stressed the UK “is certainly making sure the UK voice is heard on the international stage, and our actions are felt on the ground; particularly on the humanitarian front”.
Mr Cleverly added: “The UK is and will remain a powerful and passionate voice in calling for a ceasefire and the de-escalation of the conflict in the region.”
Labour’s shadow foreign office minister Khalid Mahmood urged the government to help ensure those civilians leaving Idlib have “some safety and shelter to flee towards”.
Mr Cleverly pointed out the UK had sent £3.1bn of UK aid to Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
This has helped provide more than 28 million food rations, more than 18 million medical consultations and more than 12 million vaccinations, he added.
Source : Sky News