Benn sets out possibility of Labour support for Syria intervention

14th October, 2015 9:01 am

Hilary Benn

The “need for action” in Syria has become “much more pressing” since the start of Russian airstrikes in the conflict, according to Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn. In an article for The Guardian, he calls on David Cameron to “strain every sinew” in his efforts to secure a UN resolution allowing intervention – but also leaves the possibility of Labour support for action without a resolution on the table.

Benn says that Labour are pushing for a UN resolution that would include an “effective action to end the threat from Isis” and “the creation of safe zones” for civilians in Syria.

He says that since Russia began launching airstrikes, there have been “very serious concerns that these have been targeted at groups opposing Assad, rather than at Isis”. Many suspect that Russia’s involvement will lead them to veto a UN resolution, but Benn now says that this might not be a final roadblock for Labour supporting intervention. He writes that “we know that any resolution may be vetoed and in those circumstances we would need to look at the position again”

According to The Guardian, this position was agreed at yesterday’s Shadow Cabinet meeting, with a statement from Jeremy Corbyn confirming that “Hilary Benn is setting out the position”. It had been suspected that Corbyn would oppose any intervention in the conflict and allow a free vote if the Government brought the possibility to the House of Commons. However, Benn’s piece implies a collective responsibility on the matter that indicates Labour will take a single position.

There may be some difficulty getting all Shadow Cabinet ministers to take a single line. Other than Corbyn’s well-publicised scepticism around intervention, Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbott said on Monday that “British military intervention in Syria will solve nothing”.

However, Benn made clear that the UK could not simply wash its hands of responsibility. “Deciding to intervene militarily in another country is one of the most serious decisions parliament can make,” he wrote, “but equally nobody should be in any doubt that inaction is also a decision that will have consequences in Syria.”

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