Jeremy Corbyn says Russian attacks in Syria are inexcusable

Posted On: 
13th December 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has issued his strongest criticism to date of Russia’s actions in Syria, saying there is “no excuse” for attacks on civilian targets. 

Jeremy Corbyn said there was 'no excuse' for the attacks on civilians in Syria
Credit: 
PA Images

The Russian-backed Assad regime has launched a final assault on Syria’s second city of Aleppo, leading to reports of mass executions of civilians and other atrocities.

Mr Corbyn has written to the Prime Minister to demand an “urgent and concerted effort” at the United Nations to secure a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors in the affected areas.

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Britain and France today called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the bloodshed, but Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Assad’s supporters Russia and Iran “have the future of Syria in their hands”.

The Labour leader has drawn criticism in the past for ambivalent statements, including his spokesman claiming that focusing on Russian bombing of civilians “diverts attention” from the crimes of others in the conflict.

In his letter to Theresa May, Mr Corbyn wrote: “The international legal system was born from the ashes of World War Two to militate against the recurrence of such atrocities yet this is effectively being dismantled in Syria. The rules of war are being broken on all sides.

“Labour has long condemned all attacks on civilian targets, including those by Russian and pro-Syrian government forces in Aleppo, for which there can be no excuse. We strongly believe that those responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law in Aleppo and more widely in Syria should be held to account.”

A spokesman for the Labour leader added: “Jeremy has repeatedly condemned the Russian military intervention and bombing campaign in Syria and called for an independent investigation of evidence of war crimes.”

High-profile Labour backbenchers earlier challenged Mr Corbyn to speak out against left-wing newspaper the Morning Star, which ran a headline describing the operation in Aleppo as a "liberation”.

'ALEPPO WILL RISE AGAIN'

Meanwhile, the House of Commons today held an emergency debate about the desperate situation in Aleppo.

Mr Johnson responded for the Government and downplayed the possibility of the UK carrying out aid drops in besieged areas because the planes would be “sitting ducks” for militants.

Instead, he said it fell to Russia and Iran to end the bloodshed, and warned Assad that his victory in Aleppo "will turn to ashes in his mouth". 

He said: "To those who ask what we would do, let’s turn the question around and ask: Do Russia and Iran want to stand behind Assad in this futile and indefinite struggle to subdue Syria? Do they want to be with him siege for siege, barrel bomb for barrel bomb, gas attack for gas attack, as the tyrant reduces his country to ashes?

"In the months or perhaps years ahead, does Russia still wish to be dispatching warplanes to bomb Syrian cities while casting votes in the Security Council on behalf of Assad, a man for whom they have no great regard?..

“It’s up to them. It’s up the Russians, it’s up to Iran. They have the future of Syria in their hands. This is one of the darkest hours in Aleppo’s four millennia of recorded history.

“One day that city will rise again, and one day Britain will be amongst the countries that helps restore Aleppo to the greatness it once had. That day may now seem far off, but it will come all the faster if the Russians and the Iranians do the right thing, abandon their puppet and go forward with a peaceful political solution which is the only way forward.”

Mr Johnson also joined George Osborne in lamenting the House of Commons' decision in August 2013 to oppose military strikes on the Assad regime in response to its use of chemical weapons. 

"Ever since that vote our ability to influence events in Syria or to protect civilians or to compel the delivery of aid has been severely limited. The dictator was left to do his worst, along with his allies Russia and Iran, and the bloodiest tragedy of the 21st century has since unfolded.”