New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: Even if the Assad regime fell tomorrow, the Government could give us no guarantee at all that its chemical weapon stocks would not fall into the hands of the thousands of al-Qaeda fighters who are fighting alongside the opposition – and it took just a couple of dozen people to organise 9/11. Would not a more sensible strategy be to work with the Russians and to try to get a ceasefire rather than to remain obsessed with overthrowing the regime?

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): My hon. Friend must not misunderstand this. We are working on a political solution and endlessly debating and discussing it with Russia. We are not advocating, nor do we believe in, a military solution in any direction in Syria. The additional support that we give to the National Coalition is part of our effort to promote a political solution to show the regime that the National Coalition is not going to go away – and of course to save lives, which is another reason we give that assistance. We are not advocating the destruction of the institutions of the state. Whatever happens in Syria – if, as my hon. Friend says, Assad fell tomorrow – we do not want the same situation as arose in Iraq, when entire institutions and armies were disbanded. Therefore, a political settlement is absolutely what we should be looking for. Of course, we must also have contingency plans, and we must be discussing with other nations what we can do in emergencies about the security of chemical weapons. We do indeed discuss all those contingencies and we are preparing for them.]