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Four suspected uses of chemical weapons in Syria this year, says Christian MP

by Press Association

Alistair Burt said the increasing use risked going against "a century of a united response by the world against them".

The Commons exchanges also saw Labour backbencher John Woodcock say shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry was "not fit to stand at that despatch box" after she warned many foreign parties were now acting like the Assad regime.

Responding to a question from Mr Woodcock, Foreign Office minister Mr Burt said: "He is right to express concern and anger about not only the use of chemical weapons but the increasing use.

"We think there's been, perhaps, four occasions since the turn of this year.

"And if chemical weapons come back into the norm of use in war, it goes against a century of a united response by the world against them."

He told MPs at Foreign Office questions the Government would continue to work at the United Nations "in order to ensure that the international convention on chemical weapons once again becomes properly effective".

Earlier, Ms Thornberry condemned Turkey for its "disgraceful assault on Afrin", later adding: "The truth is that the Turkish assault is part of a broader pattern where too many foreign parties engaged in the Syrian civil war are now acting just like the Assad regime itself without any regard for international law."

Labour's Mr Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) could be heard saying: "You can't say that."

Ms Thornberry continued: "When this Government obtained a military mandate for joining the coalition action in Syria, David Cameron guaranteed this House that it was exclusively to combat the terror threat from Daesh (Islamic State).

"Given that threat is almost totally gone, will the minister of state please spell out the coalition's current military objectives in Syria and can I ask when will he seek a mandate for them from this House?"

Mr Woodcock, as Ms Thornberry spoke, could be heard saying: "You are not fit to stand at that despatch box."

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said he found Ms Thornberry's analysis "extremely bizarre", noting: "Particularly as the YPG has been reported as wishing to ally themselves with the Assad regime in order to fight back against Turkey's activity."

Sir Alan earlier told Ms Thornberry that Turkey's "legitimate interests" need to be recognised, adding the UK condemns any attacks on civilians and "we wish to see a de-escalation of this".

Mr Woodcock added: "Anyone who seeks to draw a false equivalence between this grotesque gassing of their own citizens in Syria risks aiding and abetting this gruesome activity.

"But the Government's concern is not enough. Words are not enough.

"What is the UK actually going to do to take action to stop this, which was supposed to be a red line for the international community, which has been walked over time and again?"

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