Jeremy Corbyn calls for Syria ceasefire as he refuses to blame Assad for chemical attack
Jeremy Corbyn has called for a ceasefire followed by a political solution in Syria as he refused to blame Bashar al-Assad for a chemical attack in the country which left dozens dead.
The Labour leader said "every country in the region", as well as Russia and the US, must come together to agree a deal which finally ends the bloody civil war.
Harrowing footage showed small children among those killed or seriously injured by the chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.
US President Donald Trump has pointed the finger of blame at the Assad regime, which is backed by Russia, and said there will be a "price to pay".
In a statement yesterday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stopped short of saying Assad was directly responsible, but added: "Should it be confirmed that the regime has used chemical weapons again, it would be yet another appalling example of the Assad regime’s brutality and blatant disregard for both the Syrian people and its legal obligations not to use chemical weapons."
Asked if he thought Assad was responsible for the atrocity at the launch of Labour's London election campaign, Mr Corbyn refused to say he was, or to mention him by name.
He said he "condemned the use of chemical or biological weapons in any scenario anywhere in the world", but said the United Nations must be allowed to get on with the job of investigating who was responsible.
"The tragedy and the terror of people's lives in Syria can only end by a political solution," said Mr Corbyn. "That means every country in the region - every country in the region, as well as Russia and the United States - coming together to ensure there is a meaningful ceasefire and there is a political process to bring about a political solution to the terror and the tragedy of a conflict that has wasted so many lives in Syria.
"I call on all parties to co-operate urgently with the UN in conducting an inquiry into this so we can find out exactly who delivered that chemical weapon. The evidence is important and the use of international law is crucial to bring about a more peaceful and stable world in the future."
Mr Corbyn also hit back at Mr Johnson after the Foreign Secretary described the Labour leader as "the Kremlin's useful idiot" over his refusal to blame Russia for the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
The Cabinet Minister's comments have already been condemned by one of his own junior ministers, Mark Field, who said they were "not helpful at all".
Mr Corbyn said: "[Boris Johnson] claimed he was 101% sure on German television of who was responsible for the disgusting attack on the Skripals. The Foreign Office then listened to what Porton Down said and removed their own statement in support of what he'd said.
"Boris Johnson has got to tell us what he knows because it doesn't do anybody any good to throw around assertions against people."
He added: "If Boris Johnson has evidence that hasn't been made public as yet I think he has a responsibility to do so because I think in a situation like this we need cool heads that think rationally and think of bringing about a stable and peaceful future, and absolutely condemn what happened on the streets of Salisbury and condemn absolutely those that delivered the weapon, as well as those that stored it, as well as those that manufactured it."
In her first public comments on the Douma attack, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry appeared to go further than Mr Corbyn.
Speaking at the UN in New York, she said: "What has happened in Douma looks to be just the latest abhorrent attack in Syria using chemical weapons, a war crime for which the Assad regime has been found responsible in the past and which we utterly condemn.
"We therefore welcome today's emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. As the US ambassador to the UN said last night in reference to that meeting, there must be an urgent independent investigation into this latest reported chemical weapons attack, with immediate access on the ground in Douma for relief workers and inspectors, and once that investigation is complete, those found to be responsible must be held to account for their atrocious crimes. This must be done through the UN with the agreement of the international community."