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By Christina Georgaki
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EXCL Theresa May: Commonwealth can help tackle 'despicable' Russia

2 min read

Theresa May has called for the Commonwealth to be at the forefront of tackling Russia's "despicable" behaviour in Salisbury and Syria.

On the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, the Prime Minister argued the organisation has a “unique opportunity” to play a leading role in confronting global problems.

In particular, she highlighted the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, Moscow's support for the Assad regime in Syria, the damaging effects of climate change and “a new wave” of protectionism weakening support for global trade.

In an exclusive article for The House magazine, Mrs May said that while some dismiss the 53-member organisation as a “relic from the past” she believed it can play a “vital” role in “forging our common future”.

"I believe we must seize the opportunity to shape a new role for our Commonwealth family of nations: as a global institution at the forefront of meeting the challenges of the 21st century,” she said.

"The challenges we face together are stark. Russia’s despicable actions in Salisbury and its support for the Syrian regime continue to undermine the rules-based international order.

"Threats of terrorism and cyber-attack are transcending traditional international borders. The damaging effects of climate change are imperilling the world we leave for our children.

"A new wave of protectionism is weakening support for free and fair trade. While in some Commonwealth nations, youth unemployment and a lack of rights for women and minorities mean that economies and societies aren’t working for everyone.

“In the face of such challenges, some might try to dismiss the Commonwealth as a relic of the past. But I believe it can be a vital and dynamic partnership in forging our common future.”

She added: “In all of these ways and more, a modern Commonwealth family has a unique opportunity to play a leading role in helping to address many of the greatest global challenges of our time.

“I am determined to ensure that it does – for the benefit of our people in the UK, the Commonwealth and the wider world, today and for generations to come.”

World leaders will gather in London this week for a five-day event, with the UK also set to take on the role as Commonwealth chair-in-office.

Ahead of the event, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry used an article in The House magazine to call on Theresa May to apologise to Commonwealth leaders over Margaret Thatcher's failure to impose sanctions on South Africa during the Apartheid era.  

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