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By Matthew Barrett
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In the Commons yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a statement on Syria, strongly condemning the decision made over the weekend by Russia and China to veto a rather moderate (perhaps inadequate) UN resolution calling for the Syrian government to allow peaceful protests, and begin a new political process.
Mr Hague began:
"Over the last 11 months, more than 6,000 people have been killed. The Syrian regime has deployed snipers, tanks, artillery and mortars against civilian protestors and population centres, particularly in the cities of Homs, Idlib, Hama and Deraa. Thousands of Syrians have endured imprisonment, torture and sexual violence, including instances of the alleged rape of children, and the humanitarian position is deteriorating. It is an utterly unacceptable situation that demands a united international response."
Mr Hague pointed out that the UN resolution could not have been used for military intervention, and should not have been objected to by people wanting a peaceful solution:
"There was nothing in this draft resolution that could not be supported by any country seeking a peaceful end to the tragedy unfolding in Syria. It demanded an end to all violence, called for a Syrian-led political process to allow the Syrians to determine their future, and set out a path to a national unity Government and internationally supervised elections. It did not call for military intervention, and could not have been used to authorise any such action under any circumstances. It did not impose sanctions. It proposed putting the weight and authority of the United Nations Security Council behind a plan to achieve a lasting and sustainable peace in Syria."
Mr Hague then condemned Russia and China for betraying the Syrian people:
"We regard the veto as a grave error of judgment by the Governments of China and Russia. There is no need to mince words. Russia and China have twice vetoed reasonable and necessary action by the United Nations Security Council. Such vetoes are a betrayal of the Syrian people. In deploying them, China and Russia have let down the Arab League, increased the likelihood of what they wish to avoid in Syria—civil war—and placed themselves on the wrong side of Arab and international opinion. By contrast, I thank the other members of the Security Council for the principled stand that they took, particularly the non-permanent members: Morocco, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa and Togo, all of which voted in favour of the resolution."
Mr Hague warned that the veto by Russia and China did not end Britain's efforts for peace in Syria:
"Mr Speaker, the human suffering in Syria is already unimaginable, and is in grave danger of escalating further. The position taken by Russia and China has, regrettably, made this more likely, but the Government, the House, our country and our allies will not forget the people of Syria. We will redouble our efforts to put pressure on this appalling regime and to stop this indefensible violence."
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander gave a supportive response to Mr Hague's statement, saying "I have not, in recent days, made any criticism of the Government over their actions to date, and I will not do so in this response", and "I share his disappointment at the stance taken by Russia and China." Similarly, backbench questions from all sides of the House were supportive of the Government's position, and the Foreign Secretary's actions in particular.
One Tory MP, Sajid Javid, raised the question of Syrians with dual nationality. "May I press the Foreign Secretary," he said, "on another aspect of dual nationality?":
"Many of the most energetic supporters and members of the barbaric Syrian regime have dual Syrian and British nationality, including members of President Assad’s immediate family. Will the Foreign Secretary make a commitment to consider how we might usefully frustrate this blatant abuse of British nationality and its use as a flag of convenience?"
Mr Hague replied:
"Many people may share my hon. Friend’s view about the views expressed by dual nationals in this country. However, views expressed are no grounds to deprive anyone of their nationality. If I took that suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I am sure that she would be very clear about that. I therefore cannot hold out any hope to my hon. Friend that we will be able to act in the way that he would like us to."
The full session can be read in Hansard here.
> Saturday evening's ToryDiary: How many more Syrians have to die, asks William Hague, before Russia and China allow the UN to act?