Aleppo

Many constituents have contacted me about the horror of Aleppo.

What we have all seen going on there has been unspeakable and it is to our shame as a world that we have been unable to prevent it. The Russian and Syrian governments have attacked hospitals and civilians, and in effect besieged eastern Aleppo by refusing to allow aid in.

As MPs we have repeatedly raised the issue with ministers in Parliament, and before Christmas I was part of a cross-party delegation of MPs who went to see the Russian ambassador in London to express our deep concern about what has happened. We pressed for humanitarian aid to be allowed in to reach the people of Aleppo and for the people trapped there to be able to leave safely.

At the same time evacuations from the city began following a local ceasefire deal which halted the army's offensive. Some reports now say that the evacuation is complete but accurate information is hard to come by. It is however clear that wherever most of the refugees end up – and it looks like it is Idlib – they will need food, shelter and medical support after the terrible trauma they have been through.

Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war has gone on for five years now since President Assad decided to turn on his own people. It has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced half the population of the country to flee their home. At the end of December Turkey and Russia announced a ceasefire involving the Syrian Government and most of the groups fighting (the jihadists of so-called Islamic State (IS/Daesh) and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and the Kurdish YPG militia are excluded).

The deal has mostly held since then. The UN Security Council has voted to back these efforts to end the fighting in Syria and hold fresh peace talks in Kazakhstan between the Syrian government and opposition next month. The resolution, drafted by Russia, also calls for rapid access for humanitarian aid to be delivered across the country.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy, has been working tirelessly to try and bring the parties together, and the only way this conflict will be brought to an end is by political negotiation so that the people of Syria can decide how, and by whom, they are to be governed in the months and years ahead. We all hope that day comes soon, but in the meantime I can assure you that I and my colleagues will continue to keep up the pressure on the government and on the international community to do everything we, and they, can to help the long-suffering people of Syria


Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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