Britain won't join air strikes in Syria: foreign secretary

11th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Britain won't join the United States in air strikes against Islamic State jihadist fighters in Syria, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Thursday, without ruling out similar action in Iraq.

"Let me be clear Britain will not be taking part in any air strikes in Syria," he said in Berlin.

"We've already had that discussion in our parliament last year and we won't be revisiting that position."

Regarding the wider US military campaign against IS militants across the area they have captured in Syria and Iraq, he said that "we are clear that we will make a contribution".

He said the jihadists have "sought to create an entity that spans the Syrian and Iraqi border, but Syria and Iraq are very different in terms of the legal environment and in terms of the military permissiveness of the climate in each".

"We listened very carefully last night to what the US president had to say. We support entirely the United States' approach of developing an international and a regional coalition in support of the Iraqi government."

Speaking at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, he also said that "we have to challenge the notion that ISIL is somehow unstoppable," using an alternative acronym for the group.

"We have to push them back. We have to challenge their legitimacy in the eyes of radical Muslims and that process has begun with many Islamic scholars speaking out against the ideology that they profess.

"And we have to challenge them militarily. And as I said earlier, we will look very carefully at the US-led plan and we will look at how the UK can best contribute to that plan, ruling nothing out at this stage."

Germany, which recently took the watershed decision to send arms to Iraqi Kurds battling IS, will not take part in air strikes, Steinmeier said.

He said that "neither have we been asked to do that, nor will we do it" and added that the move to break with a post-war policy of refusing to send weapons into conflict zones had not been easy for the German government.

Earlier Thursday, Steinmeier told the Bundestag lower house of parliament that he had invited his counterparts from the Group of Seven powers to discuss a political strategy against Islamic State later this month.

The meeting "at which we will discuss this political strategy with the Arab states" will be held the week of the UN General Assembly in New York, he said.

© 2014 AFP

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