PM gathers 'war cabinet' to consider military action against Syria



'Syria represents a profound failure by the international community'
Former Labour MP Douglas Alexander, who was the party's shadow foreign secretary in 2013 when MPs rejected military intervention in Syria over suspected chemical weapons use, has posted an interesting thread on Twitter.
Recalling the 2013 vote, he comments: "None of us knew - or could have known - the future course of the conflict."

(1/14) There is no heavier responsibility a Government & (when consulted) Parliament faces than whether to commit our armed forces into combat.

Germany stresses need to 'engage with Russia'
German foreign minister Heiko Maas, speaking at a press conference in Oxford after meeting  Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, insists the West needs to "continue to engage with Russia".
He says: "Undeniably the solution to the conflict in Syria is a political one and in order to be successful we will have to increase our pressure on Syria.
"The resolutions that have been passed by the Security Council of the United Nations have not been effective in so far as Russia has always used its veto to block these decisions.
"We need a political solution, we need to enhance the pressure on Russia because without Russia the Syrian regime will not have any perspective whatsoever, this is why we need to continue to engage with Russia, that is necessary, and this is why we will continue to seek approaches and channels to talk to Russia."
Mr Johnson had also been due to appear at the press conference but had to leave for this afternoon's Cabinet meeting in Downing Street.



German foreign minister Heiko Maas tells a press conference at Keble College, Oxford: “I think that there will be ways to respond, but undeniably the solution to the conflict in is a political one.”

International watchdog confirms fact-finding team is travelling to Syria
The Organisation for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed its fact-finding team is on its way to Syria and will begin its work on Saturday.

Italy won't join Syria action
Italy won't have any direct role in Western military action against the Syrian government, the country's caretaker prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has announced.
However, the country will provide "logistical support" to its allies.
He says in a statement: "Italy will not participate in Syrian military actions.
"Based on current international and bilateral accords, Italy will continue to offer logistical support to allied forces."

What are the Cabinet discussing?
Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly tells Sky News: "Obviously none of us can remain unmoved having seen the images and footage that have come out from Syria over the weekend.
"The Cabinet will be discussing the information they will have receieved both internally, from our intelligence briefings, the information they're getting from people on the ground and, also, the opinions and intelligence from our international partners."
He adds: "Ultimately, the Cabinet is meeting to discuss and decide what future actions might be taken.
"That's the right thing to do in light of what have been incredibly distressing and incredibly serious events in Syria.
"Their considered approach, taking into consideration both the implications for the UK, but also the decisions of America and France, I think is the right way forward."
Asked if Parliament should be recalled to debate military action, Cleverly says: "There are a number of options, all of which are in the process of being discussed."
He adds: "Parliament having a vote on these things is a very modern phenomena and it may well be that that is the case, if that's viewed as being the appropriate way forward.
"The real important element of this is it's a coordinated international response and that is what we have seen from NATO, from a number of other countries around the world, most prominently but not exclusively, France and the United States."

US 'looking for the actual evidence'
US defence secretary James Mattis, speaking at a congressional committee, says the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "simply inexcusable".
He says: "Some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention but of civilisation itself."
Mattis adds: "I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence."

Defence Secretary arrives at Number 10
Here is Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson arriving in Downing Street earlier...
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Syria's ambassador to the UN: Chemical weapons watchdog investigators are due to arrive in Syria today and Friday.