Monday, September 16, 2013

Syria deal should be first step

The deal brokered between the US and Russia could, if implemented properly, provide an opportunity on which a wider and more extensive peace process can be built. One of the reasons that I was opposed to what I saw as a rush to military action in response to the use of chemical weapons was that I feared this would only further exacerbate the desparate situation in Syria. I believed that the efforts to work through the international community and international organisations such as the UN had not been fully explored, and the fact that there appears to have been progress towards a deal in my view justifies that conclusion. If, and I know it's a big if, the deal is followed through, then we will hopefully see the removal of a chemical weapons stockpile whose very existence, particularly in a situation of instability, is a threat not just to the people of Syria but also other countries in the Middle East and indeed the whole world if stocks went adrift.

Of course, it will no doubt be said that the threat of military action is what has forced the Syrian regime to agree to a deal. I'm sure that is true, but equally a united response by the international community could have achieved that, as it appears now to be doing. If the Syrian regime were to back track on the deal, then I accept that will need an international response which ultimately might require the use of military action. But such action must only be a last resort, and should only be utilised to enforce a legally binding decision of the UN, and only with the sanction of the UN. The priority now should be to use the window which has opened to, first, conclude and implement the chemical weapons deal, and to build on that to try and work towards a cease fire and then a settlement in the dreadful Syrian war. If the world community and the powerful states in the region can achieve that, then it gives hope that they can similarly begin to deescalate and work towards settlements of the other conflicts in the region. I am under no illusions as to the great difficulties and obstacles to that path - but it is the only path I can see that leads away from a future of perpetual conflict and war.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this Mark. I agree with almost every word. My only query is whether force could ever help things, if the diplomacy breaks down.

A slightly separate point: I've been dismayed by how much attention has been paid to the US (and to a lesser extent the UK) not showing "leadership" and that the Russians have taken the initiative. Surely the question should be what's best for Syria, not international power games.

However, if we are talking about displaying leadership, Parliament deserves credit for the vote against military action. And I thought David Cameron showed good grace in accepting the result (even if some of his front bench did not).