Syria – Foreign Secretary Is Pursuing A Failed Strategy

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): But will the Foreign Secretary accept that the logical next step in the strategy that he has been pursuing for six months, if not more, is to arm the opposition? That is the logical position that he is now in, but I think that it is profoundly mistaken. Every time he has made a statement on this matter in the past six months, he has carried the whole House with him in eloquently condemning the horror, the deterioration and the barbarity of the evil Assad regime, but his strategy is wrong. Just going for regime change in what is a civil war, with its Shi’a-Sunni conflict and its reincarnation of the cold war, is never going to achieve his objective. What he should be doing, instead of just promoting the opposition’s call for negotiations, is testing the willingness to negotiate that Assad expressed over the weekend. He should test it to destruction, but he is not doing that. He is pursuing a failed strategy involving a monumental failure of diplomacy, and it is making the situation worse.

Mr Hague: The right hon. Gentleman does not help his case in describing the Government’s position in that way. It very much follows from what I said in response to the shadow Foreign Secretary that we believe the apparent offer of President Assad to negotiate must absolutely be tested and tested to destruction. We will certainly do that, and the right hon. Gentleman and I will strongly agree on that. If he were in government today, however, he would have to think about what else to do if that did not work, and it has not worked over the last two years—

Mr Hain: It hasn’t been tried.

Mr Hague: It has been tried countless times: Lakhdar Brahimi has been to Damascus countless times, and Kofi Annan before him went to Damascus countless times. Every possibility has been given to the regime to negotiate, but it has never entered into a sincere or meaningful negotiation. That being the case, it is not adequate to watch slaughter on this scale and say that we will stick our heads in the sand about it. It is important to have a foreign policy that relieves human suffering and upholds human rights. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would always be in favour of that.