UK 'to lead world' on aid for Syrian refugees


David Cameron: "We'll help lead the world... and make sure vital aid gets through"

The UK will "lead the world" in getting humanitarian aid to refugees in Syria, David Cameron has vowed.

The prime minister repeated his assurance that there will not be another vote in Parliament on military action after MPs rejected it last week.

But he said the Commons defeat does not mean he can "do nothing" to help those affected by the two-year civil war.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has said MPs should reconsider military action if the US opts to launch strikes.

But Mr Cameron appeared to rule out such an option, saying: "I think Parliament spoke very clearly and it's important to respect the view of Parliament, so I am not planning to return to Parliament to ask again about British military action."

'Vital aid'

He added: "Now, that does not mean we do nothing on Syria. We are already the second largest aid donor in delivering the humanitarian aid that is so needed, both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries like Jordan and Turkey.

"We'll go on doing that. We will help lead the world in that effort and make further efforts at the G20 to make sure that vital aid gets through."

London Mayor Boris Johnson told LBC Radio the UK should remain open to the possibility of UK involvement in Syria

Mr Cameron, who spoke during a school visit in Birmingham, said he would use the G20 meeting of world leaders in Russia later this week to press for help for the refugees as well as progress on diplomatic efforts to secure a stalled peace conference.

The United Nations has warned that one-third of Syria's population have been forced from their homes by the conflict, with another 4.25 million displaced within the country.

Britain's £348m commitment to help those affected by the Syrian conflict had saved "tens of thousands of lives", said Mr Cameron, adding: "It is difficult to get some of the aid into Syria itself but we must continue to try to crack these problems.

"Britain, as ever, is a world leader in helping those who need help and the people of Syria are right up there at the front of that right now."

Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier told MPs Britain "will do more" to help the relief effort.

'Mutual consent'

US President Barack Obama is expected to use the G20 meeting in St Petersburg to rally other world leaders in support of US action, although his efforts are unlikely to sway G20 host host Vladimir Putin, a long-term backer of President Assad.

Mr Obama has indicated that he is "confident" of getting approval from Congress for a US military response to chemical weapons attacks on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus on 21 August.

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If you see someone gassing innocent civilians, that is a chilling, chilling memory for people in Europe of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s ”

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Syria is not on the formal agenda for the G20 summit, but Downing Street made clear that Mr Cameron expects to take part in intensive discussions during the gathering.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, for Labour, said the UK government should have pushed for Syria to be part of the G20's formal agenda, rather than being discussed "on the margins".

But Foreign Secretary William Hague said the venue for discussions was not the issue, but how "we bring about a transitional government in Syria, formed from government and opposition by mutual consent".

He also told MPs Britain was prepared to talk to Iran about Syria, but cautioned MPs about the possibility of success, given that country's previous record on the issue.

"The test for Iran is whether it is prepared to play a constructive role, because Iran has, from all the evidence presented, been actively supporting the Syrian regime, including in the killing of so many innocent people in Syria. It hasn't played a constructive role so far but we are prepared to talk to it."

In other developments on Tuesday Israel carried out a joint missile test with the US in the Mediterranean, as Congress prepared for its first public hearings on whether the US should launch military action.

London Mayor Boris Johnson says he believed Congress would back President Obama in next week's vote and the British Parliament should "think again" about UK involvement in military action in Syria.


Asked what could be achieved by bombing Syria, Mr Johnson said: "It will show that in the end, when a tyrant decides to use unlawful weapons, gas, to murder innocent civilians, we will not stand idly by."

He told London radio station LBC 97.3: "I have been very hostile and sceptical about British involvement in Syria - we all remember what happened in Iraq. But if you see someone gassing innocent civilians, that is a chilling, chilling memory for people in Europe of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and of the cost of doing nothing."

Mr Johnson added: "What I have said is if it can be proved that it really was the Assad regime that was responsible, and there's more proof, there's more evidence coming in, and if the Americans - who after all are the only real power that has the men and the material to deliver any retribution - can come up with a plan that is coherent, that is limited, that is punitive in some way but does not actually engage the West in some long-term commitment in a Syrian conflict, then I think there is a case for Britain looking again at whether or not we should participate."

If President Obama secured the backing of US politicians, Mr Johnson said "in those circumstances I think it would be appropriate for us to look at what new evidence there is, look at what the Americans are actually proposing, see whether it's coherent, see whether it's limited, see whether it's commensurate with what has happened, see whether it will deliver a plausible outcome".

He added: "I think it would be reasonable in those circumstances for Parliament to think again."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    298. Commitment to its citizens is not the top priority of goverment it is the ONLY one.

    Unless there is some clear benefit to our whole nation they have no authority to do anything in Syria. Since there is not they are doing it for other reasons and given the track record that bodes well for no-one

    Seems like Parliament needs another lesson in what democracy means and their place in it

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    What Cameron "does NOT get" is something every child quickly learns - you cant help others if you cant help yourself - please for god;s sake - just put the people of Britain first for once in your life....

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    I hope we'll print an Arabic copy of the Magna Carta on all the aid boxes, then Assad's foul regime will be doomed for sure. I look forward to Syria applying to join the EU within 10 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    With Cameron it just 1 rash decision after another with no thought of how he is going to fund them, oh wait! take it off the poorest in our society!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    If I've learned one thing from this it's proof that we need a nuclear deterrent and more funding for our armed services. Nobody in the world is rushing to help the Syrians. Things change, if we were ever in need of help nobody would come running to our aid either. Hope all those poor millions if helpless people get some assistance quick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Sorry Mr Cameron but we desperately need aid here in Britain because of your sinister policies towards the most vulnerable members of society and you seem to be using the plight of Syria for your own political gain just as Blair did with Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    What is it about UK Politicians and Foreign Policy?
    Do they have one?
    Or is it activated only when Domestic problems become a bit inconvenient?
    Why create a problem trying to solve another one?
    If they cannot look after our country,there is no chance of them looking after any other country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Is that the UK's favourite saying "Britain to lead the world" ??? the only thing that Britain leads the world in is making the rest of world laugh at us. This country is one big joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    If the UK public want to give money to Syria we would give to charity etc. I do not think it is right to spend tax payers money on another country. Without even consulting the public.. why not let the people who want to, pay. and give the people who don't the option. i am not selfish i am just sure that Syria would do the same for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Cameron doesn't want to lead the world. We are a million miles away from leading the world. I suggest you brush up on history and sit in a dark room and really think about how Cameron should act given the geo political situation facing him. Domestic politics is irrelevant to this article. You need to think along the lines of power and perception to understand what is at play here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    There were 10 biscuits in a room and 3 people; Nigel Farage, a British voter and a Syrian refugee.
    Former banker Farage walked in and took 9 biscuits for himself, he then turned to the British voter and shouted loudly "you'd better watch that foreigner, he's after your biscuit!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    I guess a week really is a long time in politics.

    This is the worst example of foreign policy dictated by opinion poll that I have ever witnessed. What a joke!

    Who will appear next week, Evil Dave or St Dave?

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    I commend our prime minister's approach. We should do all we can to support the victims of this war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Why does DC not speak English well enough to understand that "No involvement" means "No involvement of ANY kind"

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    The thing about Cameron is that he is absolutely desperate to appear to be relevant to the major news event taking place in the world right now.
    Only he's not relevant any more, and can't come to terms with the fact.
    He feels too important to merely busy himself with domestic issues.
    Its the 'Jim Hacker' ego arrogance coming out again - no that's not fair to Hacker

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    The decision not to help out in the Syrian crises has severely weakened our standing in the world, a point, judging by the back peddling being encouraged by the turncoat BBC who was against intervention along with their Labour colleagues and now keep asking when they will go for another vote.

    What's done is done and it was done for the wrong reasons and without thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    US & CW and WMD

    AGENT ORANGE Vietnam



    Halabja poison
    Saddam's military also received intelligence assistance from the CIA in 1987 prior to the Iraqis early 1988 launch of sarin attacks to stop the potentially decisive Iranian offensive to capture the southern city of Basra, which would result in a collapse of Iraqi military & Iranian victor

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    What a world it is when when we stand by & debate the intolerable suffering of our fellow human race, arguing amongst ourselves over who has the morale ground............

    but then your life is not at stake is it...............ah well

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    What are they smoking over at 10 Downing Street?

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    278. What utter nonsense.

    Our soldiers sign up (at least in theory) to fight in the nations defence, not what the government/army dictate. Under that principle (or what's become the norm) our soldiers can be sent to fight wherever and whatever a small clique of leaders feel fit.

    They've been betrayed enough, lets not do it any more.


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