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Cabinet ministers brand Syrian regime as ‘utterly abhorrent’

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt issued a joint statement as the conflict enters its eighth year

The use of food and medical supplies as a weapon of war by the Syrian regime has been branded as “utterly abhorrent” by two Cabinet ministers.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt issued the joint statement to mark the seven years of conflict which has gripped the Middle Eastern country.

Branding the war as “one of the longest and bloodiest” in recent history, they highlighted how 400,000 are estimated to have been killed and 13 million left in need of humanitarian assistance.

The two ministers also said Bashar Assad’s government and his allies “bear overwhelming responsibility for the destruction of the country, its infrastructure and the lives of its people”.

“Despite promises of de-escalation, the violence continues and the civilian death toll continues to rise,” the statement adds.

“Last month the UK supported UN Security Council Resolution 2401 calling for a ceasefire.

“Yet in Eastern Ghouta – which Russia itself declared to be a de-escalation area – the regime, with Russian support, has continued to bombard and besiege the population, turning it into a hell on earth.

“Over 1,100 people are estimated to have been killed there since February 18 alone.

“We find it utterly abhorrent that the regime is using food and medical supplies as a weapon of war.

“Civilians continue to be deliberately and indiscriminately targeted by military strikes, and despite promises made by Russia to ensure Syria would abandon all of its chemical weapons in 2013, international investigators have confirmed that the regime has since used chemical weapons in four separate attacks – which Russia has gone to great lengths to conceal.

“The UK is committed to ensuring that all those responsible for chemical weapons use and other violations of international law in this conflict are held to account.”

Eastern Ghouta is home to hundreds of thousands of people who are living in harsh conditions because of the military offensive and lack of food as a result of the crippling government siege.

This week the conflict enters its eighth year after what started as protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011, ignited into a war that attracted regional and international powers, as well as foreign fighters.

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President Assad said on Wednesday that his country’s war on terrorism will continue as long as there is a single terrorist” on Syrian territories.

His government brands all opposition groups as “terrorists” and has accused European countries, Gulf states, America and Turkey of trying to divide the country.

Both Russia and Iran back Assad’s government and have helped in his bid to regain control of Syria.

In their joint statement, Mr Johnston and Ms Mordaunt stressed that the “suffering will only end when there is a political solution to the conflict”.

“We will continue to use our position on the UN Security Council to pursue this, as well as to unlock humanitarian access and protect civilians,” they said.

“The UN is ready to mediate a settlement.

“The opposition have declared their readiness for negotiations without preconditions. But the regime continues to obstruct progress.

“The international community must commit to a ceasefire and a political process that ends this conflict for good.”

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