Cameron pushes for action to curb Bashar al-Assad

The Prime Minister will use this week’s G8 summit to convince world leaders to step up action

David Cameron will support US plans to impose a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, as he attempts to convince world leaders to act against the “dictatorial and brutal leader” President Bashar al-Assad during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week.

The Prime Minister is expected to discuss the dramatic escalation of international involvement in the Syrian civil war at a meeting with Mr Assad’s ally, Vladimir Putin, in Downing Street on Sunday.

He will press the Russian President to sanction a catalogue of further measures against the Syrian regime, leading up to a possible no-fly zone, marshalled by US and allied jets and Patriot missiles operating from across the border in Jordan.

The push for action comes after Barack Obama said he would give “direct military aid” to Syrian rebels, citing evidence that Mr Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister committed RAF aircraft to policing a no-fly zone over Libya, arguing that “if Colonel Gaddafi uses military force against his own people, the world cannot stand by”. Mr Cameron will insist that President Assad “is now guilty of the most appalling crimes against his people”, in an interview to be televised today.

The US made it clear that it would join with Britain and France to urge President Putin to drop his political and military support for the Syrian leader. “It’s in Russia’s interest to join us in applying pressure on Bashar al-Assad to come to the table in a way that relinquishes his power and his standing in Syria,” said Ben Rhodes, Mr Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “We don’t see any scenario where he restores his legitimacy to lead the country.”

Whitehall sources said yesterday the Government hoped the summit would produce a “route map” towards a solution to the crisis, with staging posts including economic sanctions, a no-fly zone – already discussed at a number of international summits – and direct military intervention. All of these would require United Nations – and Russian – support, so the arming of Syrian rebels is seen as a more direct first step.

But Russia underlined its determination to prevent an escalation of the conflict after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov questioned claims that Syria had used chemical weapons – and warned that a no-fly zone would “violate international law”.

Mr Cameron has pledged that the Syria crisis will be “up front and centre” when leaders of the world’s most powerful economies meet for the G8 summit of world leaders in Enniskillen this week. As he prepares his diplomatic offensive, however, a poll for The Independent on Sunday today shows that only a third of the British public thinks Mr Cameron has shown strong leadership in his dealings with other countries.

The Prime Minister also faced growing unrest from opponents and within his own party over the wisdom of committing Britain to any military involvement in Syria. Senior Liberal Democrats warned that a move to involve the armed forces in another conflict would effectively destroy the coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has repeatedly stressed that any initiatives must be aimed at producing a political solution to the crisis. The Lib Dem leader said the Government would use the G8 “to work out with international partners how to respond to the evidence of the use of chemical weapons”.

But his predecessor, Sir Menzies Campbell, told The IoS: “The idea that a no-fly zone constitutes non-intervention is difficult to justify. You may not have boots on the ground but you would most certainly have wings in the air. The political reality here is that, so far, there is no sign of a majority in the House of Commons for the supply of arms in any form to the rebels. A decision of this kind would not only be difficult in Parliament, but it would undoubtedly strain the coalition.”

Tory MP John Baron, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “We must guard against ‘mission creep’. The more we edge closer to direct involvement, the more we become responsible for events on the ground. And the more we would find it difficult to extricate ourselves.”

Mr Cameron was central to the development of the international no-fly zone over Libya in 2011, which resulted in thousands of sorties and strikes against military targets on the ground. Ministers have previously judged that a similar operation over Syria was not so urgent, as Mr Assad’s air force has been less active than Gaddafi’s, but they maintain that “all options remain on the table”.

US sources have in recent days confirmed that a no-fly zone is under discussion. The US has already moved Patriot missiles and fighter jets into Jordan as part of an annual exercise, but made clear that the military assets could stay on.

Mr Cameron backed the lifting of an EU arms embargo on Syria in May, but says he has made no decision to send arms to the Syrian opposition. In an interview with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News today, he will stress the need to work with the Syrian opposition, “because, after all, they are trying to defend their communities against appalling attacks, including, let’s be clear, chemical weapon attacks”.

The rhetoric of war

“The participation of Shia militias in Syria under the pretext of protecting holy shrines is a sectarian project endangering the whole region.”

Hamid al-Mutlaq, Iraqi opposition Sunni lawmaker

“The Syrian mayhem is turning into a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias that is ripe to explode and impact the whole region. This war will bring forward centuries-old grievances.”

Abdullah al-Shayji, Kuwait University

“The danger of sectarian violence in Syria is bound to destabilise the entire region.”

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

“Syria has become the battlefield for an international war.”

Abulhassan Banisadr, former  president of Iran

“This is no longer a civil war between fractions within Syria. We should be taking a more interventionist line.”

Tony Blair, former British  prime minister

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?