Statement from the Minister of State for the Middle East one year on from the fall of Aleppo
Displaced families taking refuge in a large warehouse in Eastern Aleppo. Picture UNICEF
Calling for urgent and unhindered humanitarian access to the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta, Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East, said:
One year on from the fall of Aleppo, it is appalling that the Asad regime’s callous ‘surrender or starve’ tactics are still being used across Syria in a blatant breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Despite being a so-called de-escalation zone, an estimated 400,000 people trapped in Eastern Ghouta are suffering from indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery shelling which, as well as destroying their homes, have struck schools and medical facilities.
The Asad regime has made aid a weapon of war by restricting humanitarian access to the besieged population. Because of these restrictions and increased violence, the humanitarian situation has rapidly deteriorated over the last three months. Around 500 people are in desperate need of medical evacuations – including 137 children – and 12 people have already died waiting for treatment.
The UK strongly condemns recent attacks and the continued siege of Eastern Ghouta. We urgently call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access, allow for emergency medical evacuations and take all feasible measures to protect civilians, as required under international humanitarian law.
We continue to press the Asad regime and its backers for unhindered access, and stand ready to deliver the life-saving assistance that is so desperately needed. Without a political solution to the conflict, this is the only way to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta.
Minister of State for the Middle East calls for immediate restoration of commercial and humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen
A child is screened for malnutrition in Yemen, October 2017. Picture: UNICEF
Responding to the recent escalation of violence in Yemen, Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East, said:
I am extremely concerned by the recent escalation of violence in Yemen which has led to further tragic deaths and stopped many others from getting lifesaving food, water and medicine. There is no military solution to the conflict and all sides must urgently de-escalate the fighting and find a comprehensive political solution.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the situation is deteriorating every day. All parties must safeguard civilians, critical infrastructure, and aid workers, and I reiterate the Prime Minister’s call for the immediate restoration of commercial and humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen.
UK aid has provided food to almost two million people and clean water to over one million more, but in a country that depends overwhelmingly on imports for basic supplies including food, fuel, and medicine, unhindered access is the only way to avoid a famine.
I pay tribute to heroic humanitarian workers – British, internationals and Yemenis – who are helping to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people under extremely difficult circumstances.
Alistair Burt welcomes the Summit, and urges GCC partners to take further steps towards resuming full cooperation
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
The 38th Summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was hosted by Kuwait on 5th December 2017.
Commenting on the Summit, Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said:
The UK and GCC are close partners on a range of issues, and we welcome the attendance by all GCC member states at the Summit hosted by Kuwait this week.
Unity amongst GCC members is important for the Gulf’s stability and security. We urge our GCC partners to build on the Summit and take further steps towards resuming full cooperation.
I pay tribute to the Amir of Kuwait for hosting the Summit. The UK fully supports his continued mediation efforts towards a resolution of differences between GCC member states.
France hosted on 10 June an Initiative for Peace in the Middle East conference to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with the participation of ministers from the Middle East Quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – the Arab League, the UN Security Council and about 20 countries.
But neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited. The gathering aimed to lay the ground for a fully-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year. For Israel, the Paris initiative is doomed to fail because Jerusalem considers that peace with the Palestinians cannot be coerced by countries around the world who are sitting and seeking to decide Israel’s fate and security when they have no direct stake in it. Peace, it says, will only come through direct negotiations between the two sides, without preconditions.
“The path to peace does not pass though international committees that are trying to coerce an agreement, radicalize Palestinian demands and in doing so, distance peace. The path to peace passes through direct negotiations,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he already told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls when the latter visited Israel at the end of last month.
“If the countries gathering this week in Paris really want to advance peace, they must … continue reading