RECENT EVENTS: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson outlined the tragic events in Aleppo over the past few months. The last UN convoy entered Eastern Allepo on 7th July. The last food rations were handed out on 10th November. The last functioning hospital was blown to bits on 19th November.275,000 men, women and children are therefore trapped in E. Aleppo without food, medical care, water, or electricity. They are being bombarded from the air with barrel bombs by Syrian helicopters, it is a hell we cannot possibly imagine. The Foreign Sec. then gave a graphic description of barrel bombs.
The rebel forces began to collapse on 26th November, and hundreds of young soldiers have been marched off to an unknown fate.
EFFORTS TO DELIVER AID: The Foreign Secretary is right when he says every possible manoeuvre short of actual warfare has been exerted by him and the Foreign Office, with the UN, the French and the Americans.
On 8th October, a call for a cease fire was vetoed by the Russians. On 5th December, Egypt, Spain and New Zealand backed another call for a 7 day ceasefire that was vetoed by the Russians and China. The Russians are still blocking the evacuation of the wounded and medical staff.
EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES. Boris told Stephen Doughty, evidence was being gathered for the prosecution of those guilty of war crime. The UK stood up in the Foreign Affairs Council in the EU, to ask that sanctions be tightened against Russia. Boris wishes the EU would follow suit.FURTHER REQUEST FOR A CEASEFIRE. Boris was so concerned about the condition of the people in Aleppo, he broke off a visit to the Middle East, to meet with John Kerry in Paris. They jointly demanded aid be delivered, but Assad obviously prefers to let his people starve rather than use the UN warehouses full of food nearby.
ATTITUDE OF THE EU TO ALEPPO. Boris Johnson told Alison McGovern that when she sees the European Council next week, she should tell them the Russians need to institute an immediate ceasefire. it is up to them and Assad. The EU knows that we are contributing £2.3 billion in aid and keep asking why not fly in aid ourselves, as have Labour members.
Ben Bradshaw made a sarcastic and critical intervention here, that we were not doing enough. Boris Johnson reminded him his remarks were ill placed, since Labour whipped the party to oppose any action in 2013.
The Foreign Secretary then explained the technical difficulties that ruled out air drops. The Syrians and the Russians control the air space.
THE WEST ABANDONS LEADERSHIP. On 29th August, 2013, the House voted by 13 votes not to use force against Assad. even after he poisoned thousands of his people with sarin nerve gas. The West therefore vacated a space into which Russia stepped and since then Putin has run over whoever he likes, roughshod.
ASSAD’S BITTER VICTORY. But, said Boris, the victory of Assad will turn to ashes in his mouth. His victory will be over rubble alone, because about two thirds of Syria will be beyond his control. Millions of Syrians, because of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their brothers will be viscerally hostile to their murderer. Already Daesh has recaptured Palmyra. Assad declares he wants to conquer every inch of Syria. Will victory ever be his?
Alison McGovern suggested Boris tell the PM to go to the European Council and initiate a UK led action supported by the EU.
The Foreign Secretary referred the Hon. Lady to the restrictions on military action. In conclusion, Boris said we can still hope that Russia sees the sense in a transition from Assad. The Russians and Iran have the future of Syria in their hands. This is one of Aleppo’s darkest hours, but one day, that beautiful city will rise again.
This is the direct link to the emergency session on Aleppo in Hansard. The Foreign Secretary’s comments start towards the end. There is a full explanation why Britain cannot invade Russia’s air space. Unless Britain has the agreement of the UN, including the Russians, any invasion of the airspace is regarded as an act of war.
Boris’s plan for peace in Syria is here.