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U.K. Ambassador To U.S. On Importance Of Finding Political Solution In Syria


Secretary of State John Kerry is in London to attend a conference on Syria with other world powers. The White House says he will announce significant new contributions to relief efforts. Kim Darroch is the new British ambassador to Washington and the U.K.'s former point person on national security. I spoke with him earlier in the day, before the United Nations announced it had suspended peace talks on Syria. And I asked him what he hoped would happen tomorrow in London.

KIM DARROCH: The conference in London has two objectives. First is, there is a UN Syria appeal, which, to be frank, has never got the funds that it needed. The first objective of the conference is to get a lot more resources for this humanitarian appeal. Second is those four-and-a-half million Syrians in camps in neighboring countries. The children there need education. The people there need skills, and they need jobs, so we need to help them. And helping them means also supporting the neighboring countries - Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. So that's objective two. Then, in the - what we call the margins of the conference, there will be, I am sure, lots of discussion about the prospects for the political process and where we go from where we are now.

CORNISH: Let's talk about one of those objectives - the displace - because human rights advocates have been critical of the U.K. for the number of asylum-seekers it's been willing to take - Germany taking upwards of 1.1 million, even Sweden doing 160,000. And right now, I think the number pledged by the U.K. is 20,000, and that's spread out over the course of four years. What's your response to that criticism that, given your economy, the U.K. could be doing more?

DARROCH: I would say that we are more than playing our part on the Syrian refugee crisis. We are the biggest donors in Europe to the UN Syria appeal. Taking 25,000 is a substantial commitment over the next five years.

CORNISH: But you talked well over 4 million displaced. I mean, people hear a number like 20,000 - doesn't sound like much.

DARROCH: It's a lot, I promise you. It's a lot. And, anyway, the answer in Syria is not going to be the whole population of Syria coming out of the country and getting, you know, relocated elsewhere. What we need to do is help those in the region, make sure that they have a future there and try and find a political solution which means we can reestablish peace in Syria and start to rebuild that country.

CORNISH: All right, so given the state of peace, right, which has not been good - there's not been a lot of progress there - what is the U.K. policy? What would you like to see happen in this peace process?

DARROCH: We are taking military action against the terrorist threat that Daesh represents.

CORNISH: So these are strikes against ISIS in Syria now?

DARROCH: Strikes against ISIS in Syria and against Daesh in Iraq as well. We are also deeply involved in the political efforts to find a process that will lead to a political solution and a settlement in Syria. So it's a question of finding a political solution. It's a question of taking the military fight to ISIS. And it's a question of doing the best we can to support the Syrian people, those who need help inside Syria and those who need a future outside Syria.

CORNISH: But does it seem like, in some ways, the international community has taken enough of a stand here, right? I mean, you have starvation being used as a war tactic in Syria for a long time now. Some argue maybe the international court could be involved. People aren't seeing a political solution that's moving forward.

DARROCH: I spent four years as national security advisor in the U.K. doing this. I can't tell you how many discussions there were around the U.K. national security table. A huge amount of effort across Western capitals is going to trying to find a solution here. But if it were easy, we would have had a solution by now.

CORNISH: Does it sound like also you're saying that the U.K. doesn't rule out having out having Bashar al-Assad not just at the table, but part of whatever process comes forward?

DARROCH: I think Assad has been well described as a lightning rod for the opposition. There is no way that Assad can be part of Syria's future, and he has committed crimes against his own people. But for the time being, the Syrian regime is part of the process in Geneva. And ultimately, what we are looking for is a solution where we have an inclusive government representing all communities in Syria, which includes some elements of the current regime, but not with Bashar al-Assad in charge of it, I'm afraid.

CORNISH: Well, thank you so much for coming to the studio to speak with us. We appreciate it.

DARROCH: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: Kim Darroch is the ambassador to the U.S. from the U.K. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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