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Turkish Incursion into Northern Syria

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing further pursuit of this important issue, and I thank the Secretary of State for his response.

In just a week, we have seen the map of north-east Syria redrawn, following the ill-thought-through foreign policy change by President Trump that has triggered a tragic series of events that are now undermining international efforts to contain Daesh. It has forced a counter-Daesh ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, to resort to asking the Assad regime for help, giving Russia and Iran ever greater leverage in determining Syria’s future, while simultaneously diminishing any remaining influence the west can claim to have over the country’s future. In the fog of confusion, thousands of hard-line jihadist fighters are now able to escape and regroup to fight another day. If Turkey’s safe zone is allowed to go ahead, 3 million Sunni Arab refugees will soon be moved there, fundamentally changing the ethnic make-up of north-east Syria. As so often in conflict, tens of thousands of displaced civilians are attempting to flee the fighting, with many killed and injured.

Direct conflict between Syria and Turkey is now just another notch closer, so I request that Britain steps forward with increased determination to help to resolve this unfolding crisis. I have the following questions for the Secretary of State. What discussions has he had with his US counterparts to invite them to re-engage with the international community on the future of Syria? They cannot back out of their international responsibilities. Does he agree that membership of NATO comes with responsibilities? Will Turkey’s actions be reviewed with our NATO allies? Has he spoken with his French and German counterparts to better co-ordinate a European response in relation to any sanctions and, indeed, further arms embargoes? What efforts can be made to seek a UN Security Council response to these unfolding events? Will he concede that we need to address the absence of any legal convention to process IS fighters, including family members, as well as orphans? Let us give the United States their due: they are actually taking back orphans from that region, and we should do the same.

Finally, we speak of the erosion of the rules-based order. Does it not send a worrying message to Russia, given its resurgent activities in eastern Europe, and to China, with its claim over much of the South China sea, if the west does not have the resolve to defend international standards when they are breached by a NATO ally?