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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Campbell: Halt Syria arms exports

Sir Menzies Campbell says arms exports to Syria should be temporarily suspended
Sir Menzies Campbell says arms exports to Syria should be temporarily suspended

Arms exports to Syria should be temporarily suspended to give peace talks a chance of getting off the ground, Sir Menzies Campbell has said.

The former Liberal Democrat leader said previous attempts to resolve the conflict had not worked, leaving a planned US-Russia-sponsored peace conference in Geneva, Switzerland, as the "only game in town".

The European Union allowed a Syrian arms embargo to expire this week, which paves the way for countries in the 27-member union to send weapons to arm rebels amid fears they risk being outgunned by President Bashar Assad's regime.

Sir Menzies, formerly Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, told the BBC's Today programme that countries with an interest in Syria should not do anything that might make it harder to achieve a resolution.

He said: "That's why they might not be willing to announce it publicly, but at the very least there ought to be an understanding that there will be a moratorium on any question of arms exports to any side so that this conference has a reasonable chance of getting off the ground."

Sir Menzies added: "There's one thing we can do which is absolutely vital and that is to deal more effectively with the terrible humanitarian consequences.

"A member of my staff has visited some of these camps in Jordan and we were told about violence, rape, prostitution, forced marriage, and of course the stability of a country like Jordan, both economically and politically, is at risk.

"That's why we should certainly be proceeding along the track of trying to get the conference under way but we should be in no doubt about the need to proffer as much possible assistance as we can to those countries bordering Syria which are subject to the terrible burden of refugees."

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