Syria

“…There is a group in Whitehall who are not reconciled to Brexit, who are pushing hard for decisions to be taken in … areas of defence policy on an absurdly short timescale. Post Brexit defence policies will take time to evolve and a lot of consultation and the UK military voice needs to be heard loud and clear.”

Speech by The Rt Hon Lord Owen to the Henry Jackson Society’s British Foreign Policy After Brexit’ event, London 19 April 2018

Full text here: 19.4.18HenryJackson

“There will either be war in the Middle East over Syria and possible increased military activity in Ukraine, or there will be a meeting between President Trump and President Putin trying to resolve these two potential conflicts. …It is a simple fact that Russian influence is the vital ingredient for peace in Syria and the Middle East and American influence is essential in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

“… For a post Brexit Britain the challenge is abundantly clear. It is to make an urgent decision to increase our defence spending from NATO’s target figure of 2% of GDP to 2.5%; to put the weight of our diplomatic and military effort into NATO and to show that the speech President Macron made to the European Parliament on 17 April is wrong and defeatist and that in opposing authoritarian powers Europe can rely on the United States.

“… on exiting the EU on 31 March 2019 … we should no longer be a member of the EU’s European External Action Service EEAS … We should retain, of course, at all times a deep-seated security relationship with the EU … But we are not – and should not be – institutionally part of EU defence.

“… There is a group in Whitehall who are not reconciled to Brexit, who are pushing hard for decisions to be taken in … areas of defence policy on an absurdly short timescale. Post Brexit defence policies will take time to evolve and a lot of consultation and the UK military voice needs to be heard loud and clear.”

Lord Owen comments on latest  Syria events: “Russia must be a player in solving the overall Middle East picture but has to accept that Assad is a war criminal and cannot be allowed to remain as President in any long term solution. Boris Johnson should meet with the Russian Ambassador, likewise Trump should meet Putin.”

Lord Owen interviewed by Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning – Monday 9 April (full recording below).

“Unlike in 2013 when Obama was not contemplating serious action (which I did not support), it now looks as if the US are serious and are not prepared to accept Assad continuing as the Syrian President in any peace. Russia will have to get used to this, and the UK and France should act with the Americans.

“….Theresa May and her government have handled the Salisbury poisoning incident well in mobilising so many states to remove diplomats. However with regard to Syria it would be good for Putin and Trump to meet.”

Commenting on this morning’s reports of an air raid on a Syrian airbase:

“On the basis that there were Iranian planes there as well as Syrian, it was probably Israel who often do not immediately confirm their attacks. We shall see if I am right.”

Listen to the full interview (8’30”) here:

We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region

Lord Owen’s speech to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, delivered Thursday 16 November 2017.

Download the full text hereLordOwenMoscowSpeech

In the speech, Lord Owen argues “We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region using the P5 +1 mechanism with others – a mechanism that has worked in the past over Iran.”

Lord Owen will say “Russia will, in my view, only play the constructive role that it could in its new position, with a military airfield close to Lebanon, if we in the other four nations in 5+1 – Germany, France, US and the UK – offer to enter into a constructive dialogue in the area, above all, which is of immediate concern for Russia, namely east Ukraine and Crimea. A readiness to establish formal 5+1 negotiations for the settlement of not only these boundary disputes but also involving those near Moldova, namely Transnistria. Also Georgia, Nagorno Karabakh and even perhaps Kosovo, could be a way of unblocking the present stand off in negotiating directly with Ukraine and sets the dialogue in terms of other boundary changes.”

“Patiently, persuasively and persistently in the P5+1 on Eastern Europe and on the Middle East, deals can be made that, balanced across these two separate regions, could help to rebuild the relationship between Russia and the US and involve Iran in the context of Russian help in stabilising the Middle East.”

“We need Presidents Putin and Trump to authorise this process and the sooner the better and start to develop a measure of regard for each other’s domestic arrangements. They will not repair all the strains and stresses quickly, but a civilized dialogue can and must be restored.”

Turkey should be helped to intervene over Aleppo.

“The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.”

Read the full piece as carried by the WorldPost section of the Huffington Post here: syriahuffpost27-9-16

Extracts: In repeated interviews and articles on the deepening tragedy that is Syria, many carried by the Huffington Post, I have argued that a necessary element for peace in Syria is an initial partition or zones of influence from neighbouring states.

This has not been a fashionable view in diplomatic circles in most countries wedded to the concept of keeping Syria as a unified country. Turkey in particular was understandably very reluctant to move militarily across the border into Syria.

When Russia extended an airfield close to Latakia not far from the naval port they had had in Syria since 1971, and put sophisticated airplanes in to protect the Assad forces, everything changed…..

Only Turkey is in a political and military position to intervene on the ground in Syria and they have demonstrated this by a limited cross border initiative this summer against ISIL. But Turkish tanks were also pre-empting a planned Kurdish advance. Turkey can now because of changed circumstances create a crucial balancing factor in Syria by taking urgent humanitarian action with their troops and air power in relieving the siege of Aleppo…

Potentially in NATO there is the necessary support for such an intervention by Turkey. But since the failed military coup against President Erdogan in Turkey, a very damaging strain emerged in NATO’s relations with their fellow member, namely the role in this latest coup of the Iman Fethullah Gulen.

…..On Friday 23 September Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced in Istanbul that US Vice President Joe Biden had accepted that there is “concrete evidence” that Gulen was behind the failed coup. Assuming there is substantive evidence in relation to Gulen the political path is therefore open for early and decisive action over Syria between Washington and Ankara.

Turkish military action should and could be mounted within hours of a decision by President Erdogan to move a considerable number of Turkish tanks, artillery and ground to air missiles into Syria within range of Assad forces around Aleppo. They would have the power to implement a No Fly Zone crucially given what is already happening in the air from the ground with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid and the flow of people both ways into Aleppo. This should be accompanied by a demand for the withdrawal of Assad forces to a line between Hama and Aleppo..

NATO forces would guard Turkey as they conducted this humanitarian operation. Air activity outside the NFZ would continue against ISIL in Syria and Iraq by Russia, NATO and Assad forces. A Kurdish area of influence in Syria in relation to ISIL would continue de facto. Areas of influence would apply, if they are prepared to exercise them, by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan over the borders of Syria predominantly against ISIL. This whole initiative should be discussed at the highest military level in the NATO-Russian Council before going to the Security Council.

When the time is ripe, UN supervised elections should take place in Syria and a single government be chosen for a unified but probably federal country. To try to anticipate when this can happen is at present impossible given the complexity of the conflict between anti-Assad Syrian fighters and the nature of ISIL. The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.

 

How the Syrian Conflict Could Lead to a Clash Between Russia and NATO

Speech  to International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance students, Chateau de Bossey, Geneva, Tuesday 23 February, 2016

“The humanitarian crisis in Syria has gone on so long ….. that we can lose sight of the military dangers that are now threatening the Middle East…

“It has long been feared in NATO that the Syrian crisis would spill over into a wider war, but that moment is closer now than it has ever been before….

“NATO needs to establish two clear positions.

  • Firstly, they will not become embroiled as an alliance in fighting on the ground in Syria.
  • Secondly, they will, however, respond to any attack that threatens the territorial integrity of Turkey.

Without clarity on these two issues it seems there is a real danger of a geopolitical military spill over. It maybe that nothing can prevent a regional war.”

Read the full text here:Potential for Russia-NATO conflict

Syria and the revival of the Nato-Russia Council

Lord Owen writes to The Times welcoming Nato’s decision to take up his idea of reviving the Russia-Nato Council “for better political co-operation with Moscow”. (Click on the letter to enlarge it.)

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Comments to the House of Lords on the European Union Referendum Bill.

“To delay the referendum is not acceptable. To do anything in this House, either through ping-pong or otherwise, that would delay the undoubted constitutional right of the Prime Minister to choose the timing of his announcement – and therefore, following his announcement, the timing of the referendum – would be absurd.

“…. the giving of a referendum is a right for Members of Parliament and nobody else, because it curtails their democratic rights. It is a very serious curtailment of their rights, so much so that, although we call it an advisory referendum, we all know that they accept an obligation to take into law decisions which, as citizens, they may personally have voted against.

“That is why, in my view, referendums are to be used rather more sparingly than seems to be developing. It is a very considerable infringement on the rights of a representative, elected, democratic Member of Parliament – and, frankly, those rights do not retain in this House.”

Lord Owen’s full speech, delivered 23 November 2015, is available here: EuropeanUnionReferendumBill

The UN needs to recognise four semi-autonomous regions of Syria

Writing to The Times, Lord Owen proposes several concrete steps in dealing with Isis that should be taken after the Paris attacks. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Timesletter17_optTimesletter17.11.15