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 618.

    It's all laudable, but I hope we can adopt the wisdom of those plane-safety briefs.. we must put on our own oxygen masks before trying to help others.

    If we ignore our own economy and allow the suffering of many Here to overwhelm us, we will be unable to help anyone. Charity begins at home. Please feel free to embarrass the wealthy mid-east oil nations into paying, but we're skint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    rich nations like US - regime change and cause the Syrian crisis the first place

    prevention is better than cure

    1) NO US military intervention
    2) NO US Arming , Funding Training rebels - Regime Change
    3) NOT LEAD but Participate as WORLD TEAM MEMBER at with dialogue logic at G20 Sochi

    France + US = War + Death + Destruction

    UK = Germany + China + Russia + World = Peace

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    610. Both sides have legitimate cases to support their views. However there is a big difference between the two.

    The pro-aid camp believe that those who are against should be made to give via their government.

    Those against aid on the other make no such demands. An individual may give whatever and to who their conscience dictates.

    The government has no authority give anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    If aid gets to the people that really need it, then no one can be against this. Better than aligning yourself with Sen. John Kerry; the same guy who had a cosy dinner with Assad and his wife in recent years:

    Something stinks! No way can we justify going to war with not a shred of evidence these atrocities took place at the hands of the Syrian government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.



    The UK disarmed in the 30's because at the time there was a very real possibility of an Atlantic arms race between the UK and the US plus War plan RED, also part of this was because after WW1 the nation as a whole due to our establishment aka the royals feared revolution, this is the real reason this happened, we still had a military we just got rid of militia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    The Arab League and the super rich Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE) are remarkably silent at the moment (all with Sunni ruling families). .

    This may be explained because Assad has ties to Iran which is predominantly Shia.

    We should stay out of Middle Eastern politics and leave them to it.
    They are all rich enough to help themselves without us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    If you really are serious about ending the conflict, then the obvious answer is to attack the rebels, without the insurgents there would be no civil war, after all they started it all, simple really

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Yes, we have our own problems here at home that must be tackled, but there is a grave sense of ignorance when folks say these problems are generally on the same level as the abhorrent refugee troubles in Syria.

    As a rich nation, we should be leading by example. It is a moral imperative. We should NOT be the only ones though. The wealthy Middle East and Asia should too be searching their pockets..

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Before you look down your nose at giving aid of any description to Syrian Civil War Refugees, please at least take the time to do a little research about the numbers involved and those countries which are already active in providing support.

    Displaced civilians are in this through no fault of their own.
    Care to swap places with them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Sure thing, ignore the rest of the world & expect exports to rise, investment to continue & full respect from our foreign allies.

    Keep it within, no spend, don't let people take currency out of UK.

    After a while it could get as good as Syria's economy.

    Wow ! the broken UK as good as Syria, what a raise in living standards that will bring.

    Poor broken poverty UK its all over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    606. The state of British armament in the 1930's had zero impact on Hitler's starting the war. It had everything to do with their political will to fight.

    In fact French armament alone was at least the equivalent of the German's, the German's just used their more effectively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Look I know this maybe highly unpopular however I really do believe that the only way we can lead in relation to Syria is to stop arming corrupt regimes in the middle east, whilst simultaneously providing support for those nations that have proven to be our friends and allies out side of oil and the petro-dollar, I would even encourage arming of such nations freely so long as they buy aid packages

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    @596 news_

    Just to say UK disarmed in 1930's and wasn't ready for war otherwise Hitler would never have dared start anything.

  • Comment number 605.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    AL league is in the back pockets of the US vicious circle

    regime change ,,,,,

    phony democracies .... marionette despot puppets, who are done away with, when out of grace and favour with US interests - " regime change"

    bin ladin gaddafi saddam morsi

    US should be paying whole ME for messing it up in first place dead civilians and soldiers!

    why does US always alienate & create world animosity

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    get yourt hands in your pocket again

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Will David Cameron send Iain Duncan Smith out to the camps to ensure the people are not just skivers and scroungers and devise tough qualifying tests on the recipients of this aid ? Send Theresa May out to ensure that they don't all flock to the UK.

    Maybe we should appeal to the Arab League for aid for this country as our government is oppressing the poor while favouring the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    And exactly how much are Russia, China and Iraq "giving" never mind the whole of the islamic community giving to their brothers. DC, stop "giving" our taxes to other countries. It is taken from us in Britain and should be spent on Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.


    britain couldnt lead the world in a tiddleywinks competition.brits are too selfish now,its not what can i do for you but what will i get out of it.
    That is Thatcherism for you!
    Also caused in large part by the (True Blue Conservative) Blair (Liebour) and the succinct Dave and the LibDems claiming we are all in it together.

    Civil War refugees can happen anywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    We should all look on the bright side.

    At least with this toing and froing on a debate that is only about supporting or aiding further aggression in an already bloody civil war we at least have forgotten about how much these noble governments of ours are spying on our every word and move.

    I feel a warm glow all over.


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