Jeremy Corbyn says there could be benefits to opening diplomatic back-channels with Isis

He said similar channels had been kept open with the Taliban and IRA

Jon Stone
Sunday 17 January 2016 13:03
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears on the Andrew Marr Show
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears on the Andrew Marr Show

The British government should keep some form of diplomatic back-channel open to Isis in order to help move towards a political solution in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that some Middle Eastern countries were clearly already in touch with the militant group and that there had to be “some route through” to its leadership.

He noted that during open conflicts with the Taliban and IRA the UK government had quietly kept back-channels open.

Mr Corbyn used his appearance on the Sunday-morning politics programme to lay out other planks of his foreign and defence policy – calling for the UK to come to a “reasonable accommodation” with Argentina over the Falkland Islands and suggesting that Trident submarines could be built but not armed with nuclear warheads.

“The British government maintained a channel through the IRA all through the troubles. I don’t condemn them keeping a back-channel to the Taliban … I think there has to be some route through somewhere [to Isis],” he told the programme.

“A lot of the commanders in Isil, particularly in Iraq but to some extent in Syria, are actually former officers in the Iraqi army.”

Mr Corbyn said he would not go as far as to open “dialogue” with the so-called “Islamic State”, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, but that not cutting off contact completely could have advantages.

“Dialogue is perhaps the wrong word to use – I think there has to be some understanding of where their strong points are, where their weak points are, where we can challenge their ideology. I believe the neighbouring governments in the region are in touch,” he told the programme.

“Look at the way there’s been some degree at times of prisoners exchange, of hostage exchange. We’ve got to bring out a political solution in Syria.”

The Labour leader went on to call for all those committing war crimes in Syria – including Hezbollah, Isis, and Assad, to be brought to justice.

Iraqi government forced have made progress recapturing Isis territory in recent weeks. The UK recently extended air strikes to join the US, France, and its allies in bombing Isis positions is Syria.

Russian jets are bombing militants opposed to the Assad government in Syria, including Isis.

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