Last month, I had the privilege of being appointed as a Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, having previously been Minister for the London 2012 Olympics. My portfolio includes the Middle East, and I write this article as I return from my first official visit to the region, having visited Israel, the Occupied Territories, and Jordan.
Not enough recognition
"In just one refugee camp, I saw for myself 80,000 reasons why the Syrian people so desperately need the chance offered by Geneva II."Hugh Robertson
As I say, the United Kingdom has given a lot of money to assist the aid effort. Many other countries, not least across the Middle East, have also been very generous. The tragedy, however, is that no matter how much money is given, it is useless if the food, medicines, tents cannot reach the people who so desperately need it. The Assad regime has been responsible for many appalling acts but it is not just bombs, bullets and sarin gas that kill. Failing to let the international aid agencies, who are impartial and do not take sides, to deliver aid to where it is needed also kills people. The ability of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspectors to safely reach 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites shows what can be done when the regime is truly prepared to make an effort. The frequent refusal or delay in issuing visas to foreign aid workers, from respected humanitarian agencies, shows they are all too often not prepared to make that effort. The latest dreadful news is that polio, so easily defeated by modern vaccines, is now reported to be spreading within Syria.SHOW MORE