FOREIGN AFFAIRS – SYRIA – 6 March 2013

Dr Julian Lewis: Unfortunately, the record of moderates in standing up against extremists in such situations is not all that great. Does the Foreign Secretary accept that our sworn enemies, al-Qaeda, are fighting on the side of the opposition? Our concern is therefore that if and when the appalling Assad regime is overthrown as the Government wish, its chemical weapons stocks will fall into al-Qaeda’s hands. What practical guarantee can the Government give us that that will not happen? I asked that question on Monday; it was not satisfactorily answered, which is why I am asking it again.

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): No one can give any guarantees. This is why a political and orderly transition should happen in Syria. There are certainly terrible weapons, chemical and biological, in Syria, which is why it is important to be clear that there is no military-only solution, whatever one’s point of view on the situation. Those chemical weapons are best safeguarded through a peaceful transition. That is what we need to keep arguing for. Without giving additional assistance to the moderate elements of the opposition, however, we would reduce rather than enhance the prospects for an orderly transition.]