Jeremy Corbyn says he would suspend British air strikes in Syria

The Labour leader said peace talks had to be a priority 

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Sunday 23 April 2017 19:25
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Jeremy Corbyn says he will stop air strikes in Syria if he becomes Prime Minister

A Labour government would move to suspend British air strikes against targets in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said his foreign policy priority in the country if he became prime minister would be to urge US President Donald Trump to resume international peace talks in Geneva.

RAF warplanes are currently hitting Isis targets in Iraq and Syria, though they are not engaging with Assad regime targets. The US has made strikes against the Assad regime under Mr Trump, however.

Asked about whether Britain would continue to take part in strikes, Mr Corbyn told The Andrew Marr Show: “I would say to President Trump 'Listen, it's nobody's interests for this war to continue. Let's get the Geneva process going quickly.

“In the meantime, no more strikes. Have the UN investigation into the war crime of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and take it on from there.”

He continued: “I want us to say 'Listen, let's get people around the table quickly'. A way of achieving that – suspend the strikes? Possibly. The point has to be to bring about a political solution.”

The Labour leader refused to be drawn on whether he would be prepared to authorise a drone strike on the leader of Isis Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi if British intelligence discovered his whereabouts.

“What is the objective here? Is the objective to start more strikes which may kill many innocent people, as has happened, or is the objective to get a political solution in Syria? Approach it from that position," he said.

“I think the leader of Isis not being around would be helpful. I am no supporter or defender in any way whatsoever of Isis. But I would also argue that the bombing campaign has killed a large number of civilians who are virtually prisoners of Isis, so you have got to think about these things.”

In November 2015, shortly after Mr Corbyn became leader, Labour suffered a split over whether to back air strikes in Syria. The leader ultimately offered his MPs a free vote on the issue.

In his wide-ranging interview on Sunday, Mr Corbyn was also quizzed again on his stance on nuclear weapons. He said: "I have made clear my views on nuclear weapons. I have made clear there would be no first use of it. I have made clear that any use of it would be a disaster for the whole world," he said.

Asked what he would say in the "letters of last resort" written by prime ministers with their final instructions to the commanders of Britain's four Trident submarines, he said only: "A strict instruction, follow orders when given."

He was also asked whether it could be cancelled under Labour, to which he replied: “We will have a strategic defence review immediately which will include all aspects of defence. We would then look at the situation at that time.”

Pressed on whether it would be in Labour's election manifesto, he said: “We haven't completed work on the manifesto yet. We are having that discussion in the Labour Party and we will produce our manifesto early in May.”

Following the interview, Labour was forced to issue a statement, insisting the party still supported Britain's retention of the Trident programme. It read: “The decision to renew Trident has been taken and Labour supports that.”

Mr Corbyn's comments threatened to reopen the bitter divisions within the party after he was forced last year to abandon his attempts to persuade it to back his unilateralist position in the face of opposition from the trade unions.

Additional reporting by PA

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