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Syria crisis 'complicated' by Russian involvement says Philip Hammond

Published 19/09/2015

John Kerry Philip Hammond will meet to discuss combating Islamic State in Syria
John Kerry Philip Hammond will meet to discuss combating Islamic State in Syria

The crisis in Syria is becoming "more complicated" by Russian involvement in tackling Islamic State, the Foreign Secretary has said after talks with his US counterpart.

Philip Hammond said the possibility of a fresh vote on British military action in Syria is kept under constant review but indicated the Government has reservations about any involvement by the Federation, a key ally of Bashar Assad's regime.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is on a three-day visit to the UK, said American and Russian defence secretaries had held extensive talks by telephone on defeating IS, also known as Isil.

Speaking after the meeting at the Foreign Secretary's official residence in London, he said: "Would we welcome Russian help in going against Isil? Obviously. We have talked about it for some period of time."

He added: "But the other part of the equation is Assad and how you resolve the fact that he is a magnet for foreign fighters to come to the region."

Mr Hammond said the Government had been clear that if it believed airstrikes in Syria were necessary it would go back to parliament.

He said: "We keep that situation under continuous review and we will continue to talk to our allies about the military situation in the round."

He added: "Because of the Russian engagement, the situation in Syria is becoming more complicated. I think we need to discuss this as part of a much bigger problem, the migration pressures, the humanitarian crisis in Syria as well as the need to defeat Isil."

The Foreign Secretary said Britain and the US were "completely aligned" on the need for Assad to go, but the timing and the way it happened would need to be discussed further.

Mr Kerry said the US was looking at ways the United States could do more to help alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe that has been partly caused by the exodus of Syrians fleeing the dual terrors of Assad and Isil.

The US has already ploughed 4.1 billion dollars (£3.6bn) into support for Syrian refugees, he said. "We are committed to try to do more and we looking at exactly what it will take to do more," he added.

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