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Time is running out for the Syrians

Monday, January 13, 2014

The following letter was carried in today’s edition of The Times.


This month’s Geneva II conference must focus exclusively on the needs and wishes of the Syrian people, whose call for freedom has been brutally suppressed since 2011. To bring about a just, sustainable resolution to the conflict it must address two fundamental, interlinked issues.

First, it must chart the transition to a Syria free of Assad’s rule. The diplomatic success on removing chemical weapons must not deflect focus from the core challenge: a dictator whose regime continues to kill, maim and drive from their ruined towns countless thousands using conventional weapons.

Secondly, Geneva II must redress the military disadvantage faced by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which does not receive the funding and weapons which their Islamist and al-Qaeda-linked rivals obtain from extremist networks outside Syria. In return for showing its commitment to a political process and political reform, the Syrian Opposition Coalition must receive more external support for the nascent governance structures, such as a new Ministry of Defence, that it is developing in the areas under its control and for the FSA. If we fail to do this, a combination of Assad and the extremists could annihilate the only opposition who are moderate and favour a peaceful solution.

While diplomats talk, time is running out for Syria’s civilians. The UN now supports three quarters of the country’s 20 million population, including 2.5 million in opposition-controlled areas which are hard to reach, and 2.3 million refugees. According to the World Health Organisation, Syria’s healthcare system has “totally broken down”, and a polio epidemic looms.

With the UN seeking $6.5 billion to alleviate the humanitarian crisis more than it needs for the rest of the entire world, Geneva II must move us closer to a solution. The international community can do this by bolstering the Syrian Opposition Coalition in creating a secure hub for moderates, capable of defending itself and establishing a democratic, secular and tolerant future for Syria.

Brooks Newmark MP - former Government Whip; Treasury Select Committee
Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP - former Middle East Minister
Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP - former Defence Secretary &Foreign Secretary; Chair, Intelligence &Security Committee
Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP - former Secretary of State for International Development
Rt Hon Sir Richard Ottaway MP - Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP - former Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Hon. Bernard Jenkin MP - Chair, Public Administration Select Committee; former Shadow Defence Secretary
Nadhim Zahawi MP - No 10 Policy Board; Business, Innovation & Skills Select Committee
Robert Halfon MP - Public Administration Committee
Jeremy Lefroy MP - International Development Committee

[Liberal Democrats]
Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP - former Leader of the Liberal Democrats; former Shadow Foreign Secretary

Meg Munn MP - former Foreign Office Minister
Gisela Stuart MP - Defence Select Committee
Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP - former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; former Foreign Office Minister
Rt Hon Frank Field MP former Minister for Welfare Reform
Sir Tony Cunningham MP former Government Whip; former Shadow Minister for International Development
John Woodcock MP Defence Select Committee

Mark Hendrick MP Foreign Affairs Committee

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