George Osborne says he takes personal responsibility for slaughter in Aleppo

Former Chancellor says Britain is 'beginning to learn the price of not intervening'

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 13 December 2016 15:16 GMT
George Osborne on Aleppo: We could have foreseen this and done something about it

George Osborne has said he personally takes responsibility for the situation in Aleppo and insisted that Parliament is “deluding itself” if it doesn't share some of the blame.

The former Chancellor said Britain failed to intervene to support rebels in besieged eastern districts and others across Syria when it had the chance.

Speaking at an emergency debate help in the House of Commons, the Conservative MP said massacres currently reported to be unfolding had not come out of the blue.

UN says pro-government forces slaughter at least 82 civilians while closing in on Aleppo

“The Syrian civil war has been raging since 2011 and therefore it is something that we should have foreseen and done something about,” Mr Osborne said.

“I think we are deceiving ourselves in this Parliament if we believe that we have no responsibility for what has happened in Syria.

“The tragedy in Aleppo did not come out of a vacuum - it was created by a vacuum. A vacuum of Western leadership, of American leadership, of British leadership.

“I take responsibility as someone who sat on the national security council throughout those years. Parliament should take responsibility for what it prevented being done. There were multiple opportunities to intervene.”

As well as referring to David Cameron’s failed push for air strikes against President Bashar al-Assad following chemical attacks in 2013, he said a CIA plan for stronger support for moderate rebels including “lethal support” was also rejected in 2012.

Mr Osborne said Britain gave other forms of aid, including protective gear and medical supplies, but that there was no Parliamentary backing for the supply of weapons to opposition groups.

“We all know the price of intervention,” he added, listing the killing, “chaos” and cost of the Iraq war. “We are now beginning to learn the price of not intervening.”

He listed the deaths of tens of thousands of people, displacement of millions more, emergence of the “terrorist state” of Isis, refugee crisis and resurgence of the far-right across Europe.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow Foreign Secretary, questioned whether the Government believed a “moderate rebellion” was still underway in Syria and whether it had a chance of success.

“If not, what end game is the Government now working towards?” she asked, warning that civilians in Isis-controlled cities were “just as vulnerable” to the effects of bombing and siege by British allies as those in Aleppo.

Ms Thornberry, the Labour MP for South Islington and Finsbury, said what appeared to be the final push against rebel-held Aleppo on Tuesday were “hours of shame and disgrace” for the governments of Syria, Russia and Iran.

“And they should be hours of sorrow and deep reflection for every international institution and governments who did not stop this from happening and did not do enough to help the people of Aleppo while there was still time to do so,” she added.

The Russian-backed Syrian military has announced it has gained control of 99 per cent of the former opposition enclave of east Aleppo and its victory in the crucial battleground now appears inevitable.

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