CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DFID – SYRIA – 11 March 2019

Dr Julian Lewis: I warmly commend everything that the Minister, wearing his DFID hat, has been doing to help Jordan in particular. The King and the Government are our close friends and allies, and they have been truly heroic in this situation. I have a little concern about the Minister’s position wearing his Foreign Office hat. Does the Foreign Office accept that President Assad and his regime, brutal though they are, have won the Syrian civil war? If they were to show a greater willingness to behave in a more humane way to returning refugees, would the Foreign Office and DFID be prepared to offer aid to those returning to Syria under the Assad regime’s control?

[The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Alistair Burt): I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. It would be unlike him not to have slight concern about some of the things that the Foreign Office does. I appreciate the situation. First, let us be clear: there cannot be any definition of “winning” this conflict when something like half a million people have been killed – the vast majority at the hands of the regime, and a significant number at the hands of Daesh – and millions have been displaced. Should the regime and its backers claim to have won, I am sure this House would speak with one voice in its disgust at such a term.

Is it correct to say that the situation on the ground indicates that the regime is likely to stay in control of areas that it currently controls and regain control? Yes, that is likely to be the situation. The regime was rescued by Russia on one occasion and by Iran and Hezbollah on another. We do not need to rehearse the events of August 2013, but there are consequences of both ​intervention and non-intervention, as the House understands. The situation is plain, and my right hon. Friend is correct; the regime will count its survival as a success in the dreadful circumstances.

What happens next is really important. As I indicated earlier, if Syria’s regime and governance returns to where it was, Syria will never be at peace. First, people’s human rights will continue to be trampled on. That will provide the base of conflict for the future, and those who seek stability in Syria through the return of the regime will not get it. It is clear that there must be a response from the regime to provide for its people decently, as opposed to the conditions of war that it has waged upon its own people for the past few years. When that time comes, I will be able to answer my right hon. Friend’s question.]