Middle East

British pilots will continue Syria airstrikes for allies: minister

In this Aug. 10, 2014 file photo, an aircraft lands after missions targeting ISIS in Iraq from the deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

LONDON: Britain will not stop its pilots taking part in air strikes against ISIS in Syria, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Monday, after some lawmakers accused the government of ignoring the will of parliament.

Lawmakers voted against military action in Syria's civil war in 2013, but the government said Friday some pilots had taken part in Syrian missions on behalf of the United States and Canada against the ultra hardline militants.

ISIS has taken control of territory in Syria and Iraq. Britain conducts regular strikes in Iraq but has limited its involvement in Syria to surveillance.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that he wanted to do more in Syria, and is expected to seek parliamentary approval after the summer break.

Speaking in parliament Monday, Fallon said a total of five British pilots embedded with allied forces had been involved in strikes in Syria, something he said he had given authorization for in autumn last year.

Fallon said none were currently involved in the strikes, but asked whether the government would withdraw British pilots from carrying them out in Syria until parliament had voted to take action there, Fallon said: "No ... we continue to have personnel embedded with American and Canadian forces."

"They are engaged in action that is legal, that is necessary and in action that I welcome and I would hope this house would welcome to help defeat ISIS," he said.

Opposition Labour Party defense spokesman Vernon Coaker said the involvement of British pilots had damaged trust.

"It is crucial ... that in these important and sensitive matters the confidence and trust of this parliament is maintained as well that of the British people. The government has acted in a way that puts that confidence and trust at risk," he said.

"You can't take parliament with you if you keep parliament in the dark."

Fallon said the United States wanted Britain to join it in conducting airstikes in Syria but the government did not have a specific timetable planned for a parliamentary vote.

"The time will come when this new parliament will have to reconsider whether we are doing enough to tackle ISIS at its source," he said.

 

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