The U.K. Parliament was recalled from its summer recess and will meet Aug. 29 to debate the response to the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said.
British armed forces are making contingency plans following an alleged attack in the Ghouta area outside Damascus on Aug. 21 that opposition groups say killed more than 1,300 people. The U.K. has said it’s convinced chemical weapons were used and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government is responsible. Cameron has spent the past four days consulting international leaders about how to respond.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, “agrees my request to recall Parliament on Thurs,” Cameron wrote on his Twitter feed today. There’ll be a clear government motion and vote on U.K. response to chemical weapons.”
Cameron’s “view is that it’s important that when we see a crime of this sort -- the use of chemical weapons against a regime’s own people -- that there needs to be a response, and that response needs to come from the international community,” the premier’s spokesman, Christian Cubitt, told reporters in London. “No final decision” on the nature of the response has been taken, he said.
“In terms of endgame, this is about looking at how we deter the use of chemical weapons,” Cubitt said. He said governments may not wait for a report from United Nations inspectors who visited the area yesterday before acting.
“We’re collating that evidence and we’re looking at all the evidence that’s available from a range of sources,” he said. “We’re discussing the issue and looking at what a proportionate response would be.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the attack yesterday as a “cowardly crime” and a “moral obscenity,” saying President Barack Obama “believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s two-year civil war, and more than 2 million refugees have poured into neighboring countries, according to UN estimates.
The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party said it would wait until it had seen the government’s evidence and heard its plans before committing to voting either way on military action.
“We still haven’t had from the government either the evidence or the military objectives it would need to set out in Parliament to justify the course of action that appears to be under consideration,” Labour Foreign Affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” show. “We are willing to consider military action as part of a broad response.”