Christian peer defends meeting President Assad

Thu 08 Sep 2016
By Hannah Tooley

A Christian peer has defended their trip to Syria where they met with leader Bashar al-Assad. 

Baroness Cox was speaking to Premier after her trip, which received heavy criticism from the vice-president of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Syria.

APPG Leader and Labour MP John Woodcock said the trip was "shocking."

He went on: "Whatever good intentions this British delegation has will fail; their presence at this man's side can only strengthen him as his campaign of terror continues."

Baroness Cox responded saying that, in order to get the fullest picture of what is happening in the war-torn country, it was important to speak to everyone.

She said: "You're in the country, you want to meet as many people as you can.

"I would say, for example, it is really important to hear their point of view and to raise our concerns with them.

"You go to raise concerns, which you can't do if you don't meet."



"The main purpose was to hear the voices of the people of Syria, to hear their voice."

Baroness Cox told Premier the people of Syria are concerned about foreign intervention.

She said: "They pled with us, 'Please do not let the British government and the international community bring about an enforced regime change, let us decide our own future', and the government is doing a lot to try to promote reconciliation."
She was part of a group of British peers and Christian leaders who travelled to Damascus.

Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester; Anglican vicar Rev Andrew Ashdown and two crossbench peers, Baroness Cox and Lord Hylton, travelled to discuss the plight of Christians in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.

Baroness Cox said that the people of Syria need prayer and need to be listened to.

She said: "They need practical help too. Their suffering is huge but you need to know and that's why we went - to listen, to learn, to tell the truth from as many people as we could hear it, to tell the stories of their horrendous suffering."

During their visit, President Assad's forces were accused of using chemical weapons and the Christian peer told Premier: "There were allegations of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian army. What was not covered at all, in just one day when we were there, was the militant Islamic jihadi offensive - four car bombs took place when we were there."

She went on: "When we went to Aleppo, we saw lots of gas containers that they [the opposition] use. They fill them with nails and bits of iron and use those as cluster bombs that they fire onto civilians... it's a two way process, it's not one way."

"War is horrible," she finished.

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Baroness Cox here:

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