Support for Syrias president, Bashar al-Assad, has been underestimated,Emily Thornberry has claimed.
The shadow foreign secretary said Mr Assad, who has presided over a civil war which has killed more than 450,000 people and displaced 11 million, may not be as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the West”.
The Assad regime, which has been backed by Russia since 2015, has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons.
In aninterview with the magazineProspect, Ms Thornberry said:There is an argument that if [President Assad] had been as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the West at the outset, then he wouldnt be there.
I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated.
Elsewhere in the interview, Ms Thornberrysaid foreign forces, including Britain, which hasstruck Isis targets as well as the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities, need to leave the country.
“They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people,” she said.
She also suggested the UK should back peace talks overseen by Russia in Sochi. I think we should be working with whatever works, for the sake of the Syrian kids. None of this is revolutionary, she said.
Ms Thornberryrefused to denounce Russia for vetoing 11 UN Security Council resolutions, saying: “People will always block resolutions. If you look at the number of resolutions America has blocked, I mean thats the way of politics.
Her comments drew the ire of Kristyan Benedict, the UK campaigns manager for Amnesty International.
Maybe @EmilyThornberry believes elections in Syria are free & fair and believes the ludicrous numbers Assad gets, he tweeted.
Maybe she should talk to Syrian human rights activists whove had to escape Syria because they dared to call for genuine elections & democracy.
In a later tweet, he said: In Assads prison state, its a case of love me or Ill kill you.