Syria situation 'catastrophic', Hague warns


The situation in Syria remains "catastrophic", Foreign Secretary William Hague has told MPs in a statement on 8 October 2013.

He said more than 100,000 people had been killed since the civil war began, with the total number of refugees now standing at 2 million - a growth of 1.8 million in 12 months.

Mr Hague welcomed the voluntary destruction of Syria's chemical weapons as an important step forward and "a vindication of the threat of military action" by the US.

Syria agreed to dispose of its arsenal following international condemnation of a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August. International experts are overseeing the operation, which could take up to nine months.

Mr Hague said the UK was leading the way in the humanitarian response, committing £500m in aid - "the largest ever British response to a single crisis".

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander wanted to know how the UK government would help other donors turn "unfulfilled pledges [on Syria] into commitments", noting that the United Nations' appeal for funds for Syria is currently only "44% funded".

Sir Menzies Campbell, former Liberal Democrat party leader, said the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity, and asked whether those responsible for their use "will ever be brought to justice?".

Mr Hague agreed that accountability is "important". He said he would have preferred a more detailed UN resolution that made reference to the international criminal court, but added that it had not been possible to agree this with Russia during talks in New York.

John Redwood, Tory MP for Wokingham, commended Parliament for recommending "diplomacy rather than war", when it voted in September against the principle of military action against Syria.

Mr Hague's statement also updated the Commons on recent developments in the Middle East peace process, and UK-Iran relations.

Both frontbenches welcomed Tory Hugh Robertson to his new ministerial role in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office following the recent re-shuffle, and paid tribute to his Conservative predecessor, Alistair Burt.

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