Category Archives: International

Newspaper column – Time to enforce Syria’s ceasefire to save lives

1204 FCO questions Syria aid drops 2crObama and Cameron did not intend to cause harm in Syria but containment has been a disaster

By Jo Cox, The Times – 25 May 2016:

I am a huge President Obama fan. I worked on his first campaign in North Carolina in 2008, I admire the leadership he has shown on everything from the financial crisis to climate change and the good advice he gave us recently on Europe. But on Syria both President Obama and the prime minister have been a huge disappointment. Both men made the biggest misjudgment of their time in office when they put Syria on the “too difficult” pile and instead of engaging fully, withdrew and put their faith in a policy of containment.

This judgment – made by both leaders for different reasons – will be judged harshly by history. And the failure of their strategy has had huge repercussions: the biggest refugee crisis in Europe in a generation, the emergence of Isis and all that has followed, the strengthening of a resurgent Russia and most importantly the human suffering that continues unabated for the people of Syria. It’s been nothing short of a foreign policy disaster.

Whereas Iraq has become the great example of what happens when you deploy force with no follow-up strategy. Syria will become the great counter example of what happens when you decide to disengage with no strategy whatsoever.

But there is still time for Cameron to write a postscript to US and UK failures on Syria. Specifically, he should do three things: refocus UK strategy towards the protection of Syrian civilians, get aid to besieged communities and throw the UK’s diplomatic weight behind the fragile peace talks before they fail.

First, the ongoing systematic destruction of civilian communities and infrastructure by the Assad regime and their Russian ally is not just morally unacceptable, but it continues to undermine military efforts to combat terrorism in the region. It creates the conditions of chaos in which extremism thrives and radicalisation is spread. The success of the international coalition against Isis will remain limited so long as civilians are subject to starvation tactics, indiscriminate airstrikes and barrel bombs with impunity.

Having succeeded in securing parliamentary support for a policy of military engagement in the fight against Isis, the British government has yet to come forward with a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of the Syrian conflict: namely the systematic and large-scale targeting of civilians by the Syrian regime and its allies. It is time to now do so.

Second, last week the UK finally started to show the potential of its leadership in securing agreement from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) that if the Assad government continues to block ground access for life-saving assistance then air drops to besieged areas in Syria would begin from June 1. Ensuring this deal is now upheld must be an immediate priority for the British government: at stake is the credibility of British diplomacy and the ISSG itself, as well as thousands of lives.

Third, it is now clear that to succeed, diplomacy on Syria needs the backing of serious pressure to change Syrian government policy. This means imposing robust and clear consequences, including sanctions, for continuous violations of the Cessation of Hostilities, and the military enforcement of UN resolutions on aid and civilian protection.

I don’t believe that either President Obama or the prime minister tried to do harm in Syria but, as is oft said, sometimes all it talks for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. It’s now time to enforce Syria’s ceasefire to save lives.

Mrs Cox has written to the Prime Minister in her role as co-chair of the Friends of Syria APPG. You can read that letter here.

Vulnerable, terrified and alone – why I supported the Dubs amendment

Jo Cox vJo Cox speaks in the debate on Britain accepting 3000 child refugeesoted for the UK to help 3,000 vulnerable child refugees, who are alone in Europe and fleeing unimaginable horror in their own countries.

The Batley & Spen MP spoke in the debate on the Immigration Bill and in favour of the Dubs amendment.

The amendment was tabled by 83 year old Labour Lord Alfred Dubs, who arrived in the UK as a six year old child fleeing the Nazis.

Mrs Cox said: “The vast majority of the terrified, friendless and profoundly vulnerable child refugees scattered across Europe tonight came from Syria.

“As that conflict enters its sixth barbaric year, desperate Syrian families are being forced to make an impossible decision: stay and face starvation, rape, persecution and death, or make a perilous journey to find sanctuary elsewhere.

“Who can blame desperate parents for wanting to escape the horror that their families are experiencing?

“Children are being killed on their way to school, children as young as seven are being forcefully recruited to the frontline and one in three children have grown up knowing nothing but fear and war.

“Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole.”

She told MPs that the latest estimates suggest that there could be up to 95,000 such children in Europe right now – four times more than was thought. Even if Britain did agree to take 3,000 of them that would just be three per cent.

Mrs Cox added: “Sadly the Government did not listen and Parliament rejected Labour’s attempts to force the UK to act.”

You can watch Mrs Cox’s speech by clicking here.  

News offers no new help to vulnerable child refugees alone in Europe

1204 FCO questions Syria aid drops 2crToday’s announcement that the government will take in 3,000 lone refugee children has been branded little more than a rehash of
old news by Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox.

Mrs Cox, a former aid worker, said: “Despite the fanfare, today’s announcement is a rehash of commitments that the Government made last January. There is nothing new here to address the crisis facing incredibly vulnerable, unaccompanied children who are in Europe and at risk right now.

“The latest estimates suggests that this year alone 95,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe. This is three times what we thought the number was.

“The situation is far worse than we thought and our response is not good enough. It won’t involve more than a few hundred over the coming year and won’t help any children already in Europe.

Mrs Cox, who has been praised for her work in helping protecting civilians in Syria and fleeing the civil war, added: “This is a cynical attempt by the government to avoid defeat in the Commons on Monday when MPs will be asked to vote on an amendment that would led to the UK taking 3,000 vulnerable lone children immediately.”

MP raises impact tax havens have on developing countries

Jo Cox speaks during Labour's tax avoidance and evasion debateLabour forced a debate in Parliament yesterday on tax avoidance and evasion following the revelations in the “Panana Papers”.

Jo Cox spoke during the debate, led by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, to raise the impact tax havens have on poor countries.

“Having spent 10 years as an aid worker, I am acutely aware of the millions of pounds that are lost to development in poor countries as a result of these tax havens,” she said.

“Before the anti-corruption summit in May the Prime Minister needs to do far more to reassure the House that he will accelerate his efforts to persuade British overseas territories to mirror the United Kingdom’s welcome move, and establish a transparent public register of beneficial ownership.”

You can watch Mrs Cox’s contribution, and John McDonnell’s reply, here:

Britain should look again at air dropping food into besieged Syrian towns

Jo Cox speaks at FCO questions about air dropping aid into besieged Syrian townsSuccessful air drops of aid into besieged Syrian towns have prompted Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox to once again raise the prospect of the British doing the same to help civilians caught up in the civil war.

Speaking at Foreign Office questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Mrs Cox said less aid is now reaching these communities than before the ceasefire.

Over the weekend however, she said the World Food Programme had successfully air dropped 20 tonnes of aid into the besieged town of Deir Ezzor – bypassing the Government blockade stopping UN trucks from entering.

“The Foreign Office, along with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, should now re-examine the possibility of airdrops to all besieged communities in Syria?,” she said.

You can watch Mrs Cox’s exchange with the minister by clicking here.