Cameron criticised over talks on Syrian crisis

Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn

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PRIME Minister David Cameron will be challenged today for not “straining every sinew” to stay for the duration of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Hilary Benn, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, will say Mr Cameron needs to take control of forthcoming UN talks, and not Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

The Leeds Central MP, who retained his shadow role following the election of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, will call for Mr Cameron to back Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which demands official safe havens for refugees in Syria, effective action to end the threat of ISIL/Daesh and for those responsible for war crimes to be brought before the international criminal court.

While Mr Benn categorically ruled out sending troops into Syria, UK participation in air strikes would depend on the plan the British government presents; whether it would make a difference in defeating ISIL/Daesh; and whether there was support from other nations in the region, including Iraq.

This pits him against Mr Corbyn, the recent chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, who has spent much of his career campaigning against British military action overseas.

Speaking about the civil war in Syria, Hilary Benn will use his speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this morning to say: “There’s been a lot of talk about air strikes but to bring peace, stability and security 
to Syria we need a much broader, more comprehensive plan than just trying to deal with ISIL/
Daesh.

“This will require political, diplomatic and humanitarian will too.

“This week the United Nations General Assembly is meeting in New York for the world leaders’ debate.

“Presidents Obama, Putin, Xi Jinping and Rouhani will be among those speaking, but it seems that the UK’s contribution will be made by the Foreign 
Secretary and not by David Cameron.

“I am telling the Prime Minister today that that’s just not good enough.”

Mr Benn said that, given the scale of the crisis in Syria, the Prime Minister should be “staying on and straining every sinew” to secure a comprehensive UN Security Council Resolution.

Part of the UN resolution includes an international agreement for countries to welcome their share of Syrian refugees and a major international effort bring together Russia, Iran, Gulf and neighbouring states, the United States and Europe to agree a post-civil war plan for Syria.

Mr Corbyn said: “Hilary and I are at one in agreeing that what matters now is a broad and comprehensive plan as the foundation for a political solution to the conflict and a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

“That’s why it is so disappointing that David Cameron isn’t showing leadership and unlike other world leaders won’t be speaking at the United Nations this week.”

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