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Emily Thornberry: Support for Assad has been “underestimated”

Thornberry spoke to Prospect about Labour foreign policy

By Prospect Team  

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, standing in for Jeremy Corbyn, speaks during Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: PA

In an interview with Prospect’s Steve Bloomfield, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said support for President Bashar al-Assad had been “underestimated.”

“There is an argument that if [President Bashar al-Assad] had been as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the west at the outset then he wouldn’t be there. I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated,” she said.

On Russia and Nato, Thornberry refuses to back membership for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania:

A longstanding Russian complaint is that Nato should never have expanded to include Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which took the alliance to Russia’s border. But having been invaded and occupied by Russia for 50 years, these states were understandably keen to join a protective alliance following independence. Thornberry declines to support their membership, framing the question from Russia’s point of view. Was it wrong for Nato to expand? “There is a feeling in Russia that they don’t like the current status quo.” And? “Putin is taking advantage of that by his bellicose language and his behaviour.” Yes, but should the Baltics be members of Nato? Thornberry refuses to say.

She also critiqued the involvement of foreign forces in Syria:

Assad may not get special blame, but others do. Foreign forces, she says, need to leave. That includes Britain, which is currently taking part in air-strikes against IS. “They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people. Any of them.” She lists the countries involved. “UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, America, Britain—have I missed anyone?” She has. “Russians!” she adds, quickly.

Read the full piece here.

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