Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Friends of Syria, on the role of the APPG.

An introduction to the first issue of our newsletter, Syria Notes

Jo Cox and Andrew Mitchell

With the further escalation of fighting in Syria, the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and the worsening refugee crisis, the Friends of Syria APPG aims to offer an inclusive forum for Parliamentarians to further develop their understanding of the current crisis and of UK policy options.

As two MPs from different parties, and from different generations and backgrounds, there is a lot we disagree on. But as two people who have both worked for many years at different ends of the humanitarian aid spectrum—as an aid worker and as secretary of state for international development—we agree that the conflict in Syria is our generation’s test, our responsibility. This is a conflict so horrific that over 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, and credible sources estimate the death toll at over 330,000. Therefore, in our view, it is time to get Syria off the ‘too difficult to deal with’ pile and to get back to basics, to see the crisis in Syria as primarily about Syria and Syrians. The Friend of Syria APPG will therefore focus on asking how UK policy can best protect civilians. Though we plan to work with the Syria APPG, under the chairmanship of Roger Godsiff, the Friends of Syria APPG will be crisis-focused.

Following the success of our AGM, in which we heard from Kristyan Benedict of Amnesty International, and Elizabeth Quintana of the Royal United Services Institute, we will be active over the coming weeks and months in giving parliamentarians an opportunity to hear from Syrians themselves and from a variety of humanitarian, diplomatic and military experts.

We plan to publish a report in January 2016 examining options for a comprehensive UK approach to Syria. To this end we will run a number of evidence sessions over the coming months. These sessions will be split to cover four key areas: humanitarian, diplomatic, military, and what next for Syria. Our first session will be a ministerial overview of the conflict by Tobias Ellwood MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, at 5pm on Tuesday 17th November in Committee Room 9.

We hope these Notes will provide regular updates for Parliamentarians on the current crisis and on UK policy options.

View the first issue of Syria Notes here.