DAVID Cameron ruled out paying a ransom for the Scottish hostage being held by the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq as he opened the Nato conference in Wales yesterday.
The Prime Minister has also made it clear he would use informal talks at the dinner on HMS Edinburgh last night to press other world leaders to stop paying out millions to free their own nationals being held by IS and other groups.
The UK government has indicated it is now prepared to arm the Kurdish regional government in Iraq to fight the group and Mr Cameron has sent an envoy, General Sir Simon Mayall, to start discussions with the Kurds over military help.
Mr Cameron also strongly hinted that the UK is now prepared to join air strikes in Iraq to help tackle the IS threat if requested by the new Iraqi government, which is expected to be in place on 11 September. The Prime Minister indicated that he believes there is nothing to prevent the UK and its allies from extending air strikes into Syrian territory without making a deal with the Assad regime.
Welcoming delegates to Newport, Mr Cameron described it as “a crucial point in Nato’s history”.
The Scottish hostage is 44-year-old aid worker David Haines. The family had asked that his identity not be published, however, his name was widely reported by British newspapers yesterday.
Mr Haines is a father of two who was born in East Yorkshire and brought up by parents Herbert, 77, and Mary, 79. He studied at Perth Academy before joining the military at 17, where he stayed for 12 years.
He saw swift promotion during service with a German non-governmental organisation helping to rebuild war-torn former Yugoslavia from 1999-2004 and went on to work for Handicap International on de-mining programmes in Libya, and later in South Sudan with a peacekeeping organisation. His parents now live in Ayr.
He was held alongside US journalists James Foley, 40, and Steven Sotloff, 31, who have both been brutally executed by their British jihadi captor. Mr Cameron said the situation was “extremely difficult” and that “everybody’s hearts went out to the man’s family”.
He added: “We don’t pay ransoms to terrorists when they kidnap our citizens. On other occasions, payments have been made and sometimes I think governments have turned a blind eye and I think that is deeply regrettable.
“From the intelligence and other information I have seen, there is no doubt this money helps to fuel the crisis that we see in Iraq and Syria.”
He said he would be taking “personal charge” of efforts to secure Mr Haines’ release.
A spokesman confirmed Mr Cameron would be “reminding other countries” of promises made at last year’s G8 not to pay ransoms. This is believed to include Italy, Germany and Spain, understood to have paid out millions for their nationals.
The spokesman also confirmed that a decision to potentially arm the Kurds “is a new development”. However, the UK has recently shipped ammunition to the Kurds.
Former foreign secretary William Hague has said that the government may still seek agreement from MPs for an air strike if there is time. But he added ministers have the option to approve air strikes without the need for parliament’s approval should an emergency, a treaty obligation or “a dramatic situation” in which lives need to be saved emerges.