FORMER Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said yesterday that arms exports to Syria should be temporarily suspended to give peace talks a chance of getting off the ground.
He said previous attempts to resolve the conflict had not worked, leaving a planned US-Russia-sponsored peace conference in Geneva as the “only game in town”.
The European Union allowed a Syrian arms embargo to expire this week, which paves the way for countries in the 27-member union to send weapons to arm rebels amid fears they risk being outgunned by president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Sir Menzies, formerly Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, argued that countries with an interest in Syria should not do anything that might make it harder to achieve a resolution.
He said: “And that’s why they might not be willing to announce it publicly, but at the very least there ought to be an understanding that there will be a moratorium on any question of arms exports to any side so that this conference has a reasonable chance of getting off the ground.”
Sir Menzies added: “There’s one thing we can do which is absolutely vital and that is to deal more effectively with the terrible humanitarian consequences.
“A member of my staff has visited some of these camps in Jordan and we were told about violence, rape, prostitution, forced marriage, and of course the stability of a country like Jordan, both economically and politically, is at risk.
“That’s why we should certainly be proceeding along the track of trying to get the conference under way, but we should be in no doubt about the need to proffer as much possible assistance as we can to those countries bordering Syria which are subject to the terrible burden of refugees.”