Boris Johnson raises prospect of further UK military involvement in Syria

The Foreign Secretary also suggested there could be new sanctions on Russia's gas supply to Europe

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 13 October 2016 11:18 BST
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has raised the prospect of further UK military involvement in Syria in the wake of Russian airstrikes he claims have "pulverised" Aleppo.

The Foreign Secretary said that the "more kinetic, the military" options are among those being considered ahead of a key meeting with US and French counterparts at the weekend.

He also said that an intensification of sanctions against Russia - including hitting gas exports - could form part of a response.

Mr Johnson made the comments following a row with Russian diplomats, sparked after he called for protests outside the nation's embassy in London over the conduct of its Syrian campaign.

Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he set out the policy options that are now open to the UK in Syria.

He said: "Our options now are to try on the humanitarian front, to try to find extra ways of getting help into Aleppo, to do what we can to warn the people of Aleppo about impending airstrikes, to support the White Helmets, to support all types of humanitarian relief, to intensify sanctions on some of the key players in the Assad regime and on the Russians as well.

"And also of course, it is right now that we should be looking again at the more kinetic options, the military options."

The Foreign Secretary explained that nothing could be done without a coalition of nations supporting some sort of greater intervention and he admitted that was some way off.

Boris Johnson calls for protests outside the Russian Embassy over Syria conflict

But Mr Johnson confirmed this weekend he would be meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry and his French and German counterparts to "canvass all the options".

He said he did not want to raise hopes of what the West could do, given what happened when the UK had to row back from action following David Cameron's 2013 failure to win parliamentary approval for RAF airstrikes, something he said was "regrettable".

But the Foreign Secretary went on: "The general feeling is that obviously, it's good that things are happening again in Geneva. But most people, I think including John Kerry, feel that the process of discussion with the Russians has basically run out of road and on Sunday we'll be talking about all the options that we think are available to us and to the West.

"I'm not going to pretend that there is any easy answer here, because there isn't. But I think most people...are now changing their minds about this, they are thinking we can't let this go on forever, we can't just see Aleppo pulverised in this way. We have to do something."

He added: "People certainly want to see a new set of options."

The Foreign Secretary said the "anomaly" of sanctions against Russia was the fact that they supply so much gas to Europe, and that there are now some European nations who believe that supply should be the next target.

She said: “There is no change to the Government’s position with regard to that.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Prime Minister would "weigh up very carefully any options that are put forward and the potential consequences of those".

She added: "At the moment, the focus is on bringing together partners, as I think the Foreign Secretary outlined at the committee.”

After Mr Johnson suggested there should be demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London, the country's ambassador to the UN said he had "delusions of grandeur".

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