UN mandate 'needed for Labour to back military action in Syria'


Labour will only consent to extending military action into Syria if there is a UN mandate to do so, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Speaking in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott, outlined the circumstances which will be required for her party to back a bid to extend the UK's military role from Iraq and into Syria.

She told Murnaghan on Sky News: "As far as Labour's policy in relation to Syria, we actually discussed this at party conference and we have a policy.

"We can only agree to bomb in Syria first of all if there is a UN resolution and also, and this is my particular concern, if there is a plan to deal with the refugees that will result from further military action."

When asked if the Paris attacks had changed any of that, Ms Abbott said: "Yes, it is a game changer in that it makes the need to resolve the civil war in Syria even more urgent than it was and that's part of Labour party's policy, that we put the need for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war right at the top of the agenda."

Ms Abbott said defeating Islamic State, also known as Isil or Daesh, is "not about dogma, it's not about gestures, it's about what works and in the end you have to resolve the civil war in Syria".

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn also insisted the focus should be on finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria before extending any military action.

He told Murnaghan that Labour would consider any proposal brought forward by the Government but "there has to be a comprehensive plan if you are really going to end the threat from Isil/Daesh and that needs to come forward".

"If the Government wants to bring that forward, then we would look at it," he said.

"But I'm afraid you are not going to defeat Isil/Daesh in Syria just by dropping bombs."

The Government's position - repeated by Theresa May today - is that no proposals to extend the RAF's mission against IS into Syria will be put to the vote in the House of Commons unless there was a "consensus" behind them.

David Cameron is unlikely to put any proposal to the Commons unless he could be confident of support from a significant number of Labour MPs.

Labour leader Mr Corbyn yesterday cancelled a speech in which he would have suggested that British bombing operations against Islamic State (IS) had contributed to an increased threat to national security.

Asked on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show whether the Paris attacks had changed the mood in Labour over airstrikes in Syria, shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer said: "I think everybody is now thinking that the right thing to do is to take stock.

"It means, for the Government, I think they have got to talk to allies, assess how this changes things.

"The Russian intervention in Syria has also changed things. I think what is now required is a detailed plan to be brought forward.

"I don't think anybody in the political world in the UK will not think what's happened in Paris is something that makes one stop and think about what the right course is now in relation to how you deal with Isil."

Lord Falconer added: "Jeremy Corbyn and I are absolutely clear we must do everything we possibly can to end Isil."

France's ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann said it would be "appreciated" if the RAF carried out raids in Syria alongside the French.

She told Murnaghan: "It is difficult to comment because it is not only a Government decision but they have decided to consult with the Parliament. If they do participate like us, of course we will appreciate (it) because we have always fought side by side but it is their decision."

She added: "We have to fight side by side if we want to defeat terrorism. "

But the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said an RAF bombing campaign in Syria would be an "ineffective move" because "it wouldn't be part of a coherent international plan to achieve our mission which is the defeat of Isis".

Tory MP Crispin Blunt told Murnaghan: "Whether or not eight British aeroplanes should fly slightly wider air operations is not going to change anything militarily, the French are already flying there, the Americans are already flying the vast number of the missions there alongside now the Russians as well.

"Making that picture slightly more complex is not actually going to change the outcome and what we've got to do here is to focus on the outcome. What's the mission? The mission is to defeat Isis, we're not going to defeat the ideology immediately, that's going to take a much longer time but it's much easier to make sure that we can't have attacks projected on us such as the ones we've had in Paris if Isis does not control territory and there is nowhere for people to go, of whatever type, to go and fight for them.

"That territory has got to be taken off them, we've got to have an agreement about how to do that."