GREGORY Campbell and Mark Durkan voted against the bid for a mandate to bomb Syria on Thursday (August 30) and both have raised the matter in the past.
Details of Syrian Government massacres first emerged in 2011 but at that stage the Government was busy trying to kill Muammar Gaddafi and exulting over the ‘Arab Spring.’ But Gregory Campbell asked Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, Alistair Burt, as far back as October 2011 to talk to Russia and China about securing peaceful change in Syria. And in June 2011 Mark Durkan pressed Foreign Minister William Hague on the problem of winning Russian and Chinese co-operation.
In March 2013 Mr Durkan raised questions about the “true character” of the Free Syrian Army, stating: “It is clear that the House shares the sense of humanitarian urgency that the Foreign Secretary has articulated so well, but many are also concerned that that urgency should not entail a working disregard for the true character and real agenda of some of the opposition forces.”
He said: “Our foreign policy is inseparable from upholding human rights, protecting lives and supporting international law; we must assist the genuine moderate and democratic forces who are in dire need of help and who feel abandoned by the international community; and we cannot look the other way while international law and human rights are flouted.”
In April Mr Campbell asked about the persecution of Christians. Mr Burt replied: “The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, inflicting a heavy cost on the country’s population, including its minority groups. Like others in the region, Syrians demand that their rights to liberty, dignity and to choose freely their leaders be recognized. We regularly meet representatives and members of minority groups and we continue to encourage the Syrian National Coalition to reassure all Syrians that they are working towards a Syria which is democratic, inclusive, representative, respectful of its ethnic and religious minorities and which adheres to international human rights conventions. We remain resolute in our support of the Syrian people’s demands for a peaceful and democratic transition to a more open society, one that respects the rights of all its citizens, Allawite or Sunni, Christian or Kurd.”
Also in April New Forest Conservative MP Dr Julian Lewis asked Mr Burt about the dangers of al-Qaeda-related groups capturing Assad’s chemical weapons and using them for terrorist attacks against the UK and the US.
Mr Burt replied: “The vulnerability of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks is very difficult to assess as I made clear in my answer on 25 March 2013.
“However, we remain extremely concerned. The Syrian regime is legally obliged under UN Security Council resolution 1540 to keep its chemical weapons secure and we have continued to stress the need to fulfil this obligation.
“As I noted on 25 March, some expertise, as well as access to appropriate delivery systems, is needed to handle and exploit chemical weapons. I cannot speculate on whether al-Qaeda-related groups have such capability, but we continue to monitor the situation very closely.”