Syria: Islamic State

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 13th November 2015.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how the Government plans to develop a more comprehensive strategy to combat ISIL that prioritises protecting civilians in Syria.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The UK has a long-term, comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. We are working to protect UK citizens, both domestically and overseas, from the threat posed by ISIL, and playing a leading role in the 65-member Global Coalition that is tackling ISIL on the ground. That international effort includes military action against ISIL in its heartlands in Iraq and Syria, cutting off its finances, tackling foreign fighter flows, stabilising areas which have been liberated from ISIL, and countering its poisonous ideology through strategic communications.

Unlike the Assad regime and its allies, who are bombing indiscriminately, Coalition military efforts in both Iraq and Syria are specifically designed to minimise civilian casualties. UK strike aircraft (which are currently operating only in Iraq) are equipped with advanced targeting systems and precision weapons to target ISIL by day or night whilst minimising civilian casualties.

In addition to our efforts as part of the Global Coalition, the UK is directly helping protect Syrians on the ground. We are training Search and Rescue teams and supporting local Moderate Opposition structures to deliver governance, infrastructure, health services, education and livelihoods services. We also give more humanitarian aid to Syria than any other bilateral donor except the US.

Ultimately, the only way to protect civilians in Syria is by achieving the mutually reinforcing objectives of defeating ISIL and ending the Syrian conflict. The latter can only be achieved through a political transition away from the Assad regime, whose brutality created and continues to fuel the conflict, and has led to ISIL’s expansion.

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