Owen Smith says Isis should be brought 'round the table' for Syria peace talks

'Eventually if we are to try and solve this, all of the actors do need to be involved'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 17 August 2016 11:13
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Owen Smith doesn't rule out holding Syrian peace talks with Isis

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith has been forced into an embarrassing clarification, saying he does not think there should be talks with Isis before the group "renounces violence".

His camp came under pressure to explain controversial comments he which he suggested there should be negotiations with the group to end the Syrian civil war.

As he was attacked by both Tory and Labour politicians, a spokesman said: "Owen is clear that there should be absolutely no negotiation with Daesh, or any terrorist group, until they renounce violence, cease all acts of terror and commit themselves to a peaceful settlement."

While being quizzed over the issue during a debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Smith said “all of the actors” needed to be involved in any talks to stop the conflict which has claimed thousands of lives.

Both Mr Smith and Mr Corbyn were asked whether they thought the brutal terror group should take part in talks.

While Mr Corbyn replied “no, they’re not going to be round the table, no,” his rival gave a more equivocal answer.

Mr Smith said: “Ultimately all solutions to these crises do come about through dialogue.

“So eventually if we are to try and solve this, all of the actors do need to be involved.

“At the moment, ISIL are clearly not interested in negotiating.”

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But when asked by BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire if he was “a yes”, he replied: “At some point, for us to resolve this, we will need to get people round the table.”

There was controversy at the start of the year when Mr Corbyn suggested the British government could keep some form of diplomatic back-channel open to Isis to encourage a political solution.

Johnny Mercer MP, member of the Defence Select Committee, said: “Everyone knows negotiation is far more desirable than violence in any conflict, but to suggest it in this case, is to entirely misunderstand and fail to grasp the challenge posed by Daesh.

“His desperate attempts to out-Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn have led him to the view that barbaric murderers who behead journalists and lynch homosexuals are now the sort of people that we should negotiate with.”

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign said: "Jeremy has always argued that there must be a negotiated political solution to the war in Syria and the wider Middle East, and that maintaining lines of communication during conflicts is essential.

“But Isis cannot be part of those negotiations. Instead, its sources of funding and supplies must be cut off. Owen Smith's comments were hasty and ill-considered."

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