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Catholic peer meets President Assad

Lord Hylton was part of a delegation that met Bashar al-Assad during a week-long trip to the country

A Catholic peer met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Damascus this week.

Crossbench peer Lord Hylton was part of a contingent including Baroness Cox, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, and vicar Reverend Andrew Ashdown.

The contingent faced criticism for meeting the Syrian leader.

After the office of the Syrian Presidency shared a photograph of the meeting on social media, Labour MP John Woodcock, vice-president of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Syria, said: “Whatever good intentions this British delegation has will fail; their presence at this man’s side can only strengthen him as his campaign of terror continues.”

Baroness Cox defended the trip, saying: “You’re in the country, you want to meet as many people as you can. You go to raise concerns, which you can’t do if you don’t meet.”

“The main purpose was to hear the voices of the people of Syria, to hear their voice.”

In an interview with Premier Christian radio, Baroness Cox said the Syrian people were anxious about foreign intervention. “They plead with us: ‘Please do not let the British government and the international community bring about an enforced regime change, let us decide our own future’, and the government is doing a lot to try to promote reconciliation,” she said.

“Their suffering is huge but you need to know and that’s why we went – to listen, to learn, to tell the stories of their horrendous suffering.”

Violence continued during the delegation’s stay in the country, with Assad’s forces renewing attacks on rebel-held Aleppo.

Baroness Cox acknowledged accusations that Assad’s forces had employed chemical weapons, but added that the Islamic offensive had also been active. “It’s a two-way process, it’s not one-way,” she said, adding: “War is horrible.”


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