Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Syria

Delivered in Plenary - 16th January 2013

Mr President

It is hard to believe that the Syrian conflict has now been going on for two years with so many lives lost and so little achieved in terms of bringing peace to a once stable Middle Eastern country. Only yesterday 87 people were killed in a bombing attack on Aleppo’s university campus.

There is a sort of paradigm emerging, and a familiar one, with each side now blaming the other. But this does reinforce one crucial point about this war since we last spoke in the House, namely that both sides, sadly, have now been accused of atrocities. We must be extremely cautious in our unqualified endorsements of all the opposition forces, in particular the extremist Jihadi ones.

One thing is certain. There is a complete necessity now for the utterly discredited and morally bankrupt President Assad to leave office as soon as possible. He has dropped bombs, which is a war crime, on his own civilians and been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of an estimated 60 000 people. We now hear rumours that the Iranian proxy Hezbollah is mobilising fighters to defend the government, while Assad is planning a retreat to an Alawite enclave for a final stand. Any resolution that allowed him to remain in office would, however, be totally unacceptable to the West.

We must, therefore, maintain all the pressure we can to end this horrendous conflict. It would certainly be helpful in this regard if China and Russia, whose continuing appeasement of the regime in Damascus carries on – as well as their continuing blocking of UN resolutions which is actually blighting their own international standing and is an abuse of their Security Council privilege – were to actually come round and agree with the EU and the US on this matter. UN envoy, Lakdar Brahimi, recently said that Russia appears as determined as the US to end this conflict, but we need to see Moscow offering action, not simply words.

For the time being, all that we can hope for is the success of the peace plan and a transitional government. We owe it to the Syrian people and in particular the minorities, such as the Christians, who are caught up between the warring factions, to help them to realise their desire for their lives to be free of political tyranny and military onslaught.