Philip Hammond rejects calls to wait for Chilcot before Syria decision


Britain does not need to wait for the publication of the Chilcot report before deciding whether to begin air strikes on Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Mr Hammond rejected calls from senior Tory David Davis and others for ministers to wait for the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report before giving MPs a vote on military action on Syria because the lessons need to be learned from the 2003 invasion and aftermath.

The Foreign Secretary described Sir John Chilcot's report and Syria as "quite separate issues" and stressed that any action in the civil war-ravaged country would be limited in comparison with Iraq.

He said: "We're frustrated as anybody by the delays in publication of the Chilcot report but the Chilcot Inquiry is and it quite properly must remain, an independent inquiry and so the Government's ability to influence the timetable of publication is non-existent but we're frustrated

"On the question of extending our operations over Iraq to include Syria, we continue to look at this on the basis of the military case.

"If we come to the conclusion that it is something we should do we will go to Parliament for approval of a proposal as we have committed that we would do.

"And this is a quite separate issue from the publication of the Chilcot report. The Chilcot report is about different issues, what we would be talking about in Syria is a limited air strike intervention in order to extend the campaign against Isil from Iraq and the need to cover Syria as well."

Mr Hammond was speaking after a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir.

The Foreign Secretary said he had reassured Mr al Jubeir that Britain reopening its embassy in Iran does not mean it will relax pressure on Tehran to stop interfering in other Middle Eastern countries' affairs.

Mr Hammond said: "Foreign Minister al Jubeir and I had a very useful discussion.

"I've been able to brief him on the implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran and to reassure him about the high levels of verification, the high levels of access, and the very strict controls that are built into that agreement in order to ensure compliance.

"I've also been able to give him a debrief from my visit earlier this week from Tehran and to reassure him that just because Britain has reopened its embassy in Tehran, it does not imply in any way that we are weakening our resolve to stand with our allies and partners in the Gulf to ensure stability in that region and to prevent interference in the internal affairs in the countries of that region."