The situation in Syria and the surrounding area is catastrophic. The numbers killed and maimed continues to climb. The United Nations now supports three-quarters of the country’s 20 million population. There are over 2.3 million refugees across Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordon and Iraq.
This month the Geneva 2 conference will attempt to bring together many of the participants to the conflict to discuss reducing the violence. It is vital they take as their starting point the wishes of the Syrian people who have suffered so much since 2011.
With MPs from across the House I have signed a letter which appears in today’s Times. It calls for the Geneva process to chart the transition toward a Syria free of Assad’s rule. There is no possibility of an agreed ceasefire, let alone any process towards peace and reconciliation, if the dictator and his supporters remain.
Second, it identifies the need to redress the military disadvantage faced by the Free Syrian Army because of its commitment to a democratic political process. To those who are not persuaded by the need to intervene and say, ‘Intervention has nothing to do with us; it will play into the hands of al-Qaida’, I say that the reverse is true. We can and must intervene. If we do not offer this support the combination of the Assad regime and al-Qaida extremists could annihilate the only moderate force in the country.
With the UN seeking $6.5bn to alleviate the humanitarian crisis – more than it needs for the rest of the entire world – Geneva 2 must move us closer to a solution. The international community can do this by supporting the Syrian opposition coalition in its work to create a secure hub for moderates, capable of defending itself and establishing a democratic, secular and tolerant future for Syria.
In the parliamentary debate about chemical weapons last August Labour showed itself to be hesitant in supporting any kind of intervention in Syria. This, in my view, was a mistake. Not only does the UN doctrine of Responsibility to Protect legitimise intervention but the price of non-intervention to date has been a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, many more dead and injured and the establishment of al-Qaida in the country.
A successful diplomatic initiative is, of course, preferable to military intervention. But diplomatic and peace efforts have completely failed so far, and show little prospect of success. Are we really going to continue to sit on the sidelines wringing our hands?
Meg Munn is member of parliament for Sheffield Heeley. She tweets @MegMunnMP
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