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tv   British Prime Minister Theresa May on Airstrikes in Syria  CSPAN  April 14, 2018 1:51pm-2:30pm EDT

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fine military. could not have had a better result. mission accomplished." while ago, british prime minister theresa may made a statement on the joint airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities in syria conducted last night in a joint effort by the u.s., great britain, and france. following her statement, she takes questions from the news media. this is about 40 minutes. prime minister may: last night, british, french, and american armed forces conducted for native and targeted strikes to degrade the syrian regime's chemical weapons capability and deter their use. , for aria tornado gr fours, launched storm shadow facilityat a military
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15 miles west. assessedhe military is to keep chemical weapons under the breach. while the full assessment of the strike is ongoing, we are confident of its success. let me set out why we have taken this action. people,urday, up to 75 including young children, were killed in a despicable and , with asattack in duma many as 500 further casualties. we have worked with our allies to establish what happened, and all the indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. harrowingen the images of men, women, and children lying dead with foam in their mouths. these were innocent families, who at the time the chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking shelter underground in
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basements. first-hand accounts of ngos and aid workers have detailed the most horrific suffering. including burns to the eyes, suffocation and skin discoloration, with a chlorine like odor surrounding the victims. the world health organization has received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at syrian health facilities on saturday night with signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals. are also clear about who was responsible for this atrocity. body oficant information, including intelligence, indicates the syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack. i cannot tell you everything, but let me give an example of some of the evidence that leads us to this conclusion. open source accounts alleged that a barrel bomb was used to
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deliver the chemicals. reports open source claimed that the regime helicopter was observed above the city of douma on the evening of the seventh of april. operatesition does not helicopters or use barrel bombs. and reliable intelligence indicates that syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of fluorine -- chlorine in douma on the seventh of april. no other groups could have carried out this attack. example, does not even have a presence in duma. in the facts of these attacks should apprise -- surprise no one. we know that the syrian regime has an utterly aborted record of using chemical weapons against its own people. 2013, 21st of august, over 100 people were killed and injured in a chemical attack in
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bootup. there were 14 smaller scale chemical attacks prior to that summer. on the fourth of april last year, the syrian regime used chemical weapons against its aople, killing about 100 with further 500 casualties. and based on the persistent pattern of behavior, and the cumulative analysis of specific evidence. we judged it highly likely both that the syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons since then, and will continue to do so. this must be stopped. we are using every possible diplomatic channel, but our efforts have been completed -- thwarted.peatedly following the attack in damascus in 2014, the syrian regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapon program and russia promised to ensure that syria did this, overseen by the organizations of prohibition of
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chemical weapons. but these commitments have not been met. from thereport organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons has said that syria's declaration of its former chemical weapons program is incomplete. this indicates it continues to retain undeclared stocks of nerve agents, or reserves of chemicals, and is likely to be continuing with chemical weapons production. the opcw inspectors have investigated previous attacks and decided that the regime was indeed responsible. on each occasion, when we have seen every sign of chemical .eapons every attempt to hold the perpetrators for account has been blocked by the un security since the start we 17. just this week, the russians vetoed a draft resolution that would have established an independent investigation
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against this latest attack, even making the protest and observed that it was staged by britain. we have no choice but to conclude diplomatic action on its own will not be more effective in the future than it has been in the past. the u.k.last week, government has been working intensively with our international partners to build the evidence picture. and to consider what action we need to take to prevent and deter future humanitarian catastrophes caused by chemical weapon attacks. cabinet met on thursday, we considered the advice of the attorney general, the national security and the chief of the defense cap. and we were updated on the latest assessment and intelligence picture. based on this advice, we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action together with our closest allies to deviate -- alleviate further
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humanitarian suffering by syrian regime's further chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. was not about interfering in a civil war, and it was not about regime change. as i discussed with president macron,nd president k it was a targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries that sought to avoid escalation, and did everything possible to prevent civilian agile teams. together, we have hit a specific and limited set of targets. they were a chemical weapons storage and production facility, a key chemical weapons research center, and military bunker involved in chemical weapons attacks. hitting these targets with the force that we have deployed will significantly degrade the syrian regime's ability to research, develop, and deploy chemical weapons. atrocityo after the
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there, the u.s. conducted a strike on the air flailed at which the attack took place. it aside and his regime have not stopped their use of chemical weapons. last night strikes by the u.s., u.k., and france were significantly larger than the u.s. action a year ago and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime's capability and waiting this -- willingness to use chemical weapons. as a collective action, this sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons. to be clear that this military action to deter the use of chemical weapons does not stand alone. we must remain committed to resolving the conflict at large. the best hope for the syrian people remained this political solution. think that all parsons -- parsons, including the regime and its backers, continue to provide humanitarian access to thee in desperate need, and
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u.k. will continue to strive for both. but this is about deterring the use of chemical weapons in syria and beyond. to achieve this, there must be a wider diplomatic effort, including the full range of political and economic leaders to strengthen the global norms prohibited -- prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, which have stood for nearly a century. at a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the u.k. in recent weeks is part of a pattern of disregard for these norms. so while this action is specifically about deterring the syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity. there is no greater decision for a prime minister been to commit our soldiers to combat, and this is the first time that i have had to do so.
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as always, they have served our country with the greatest professionalism and bravery, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. we would have preferred an alternative, but on this occasion, there is none. we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized. on thewithin syria, streets of the u.k., or elsewhere. we must reinstate the global consensus that chemical weapons cannot be used. this action is absolutely in britain's national interest. is wherens of history and when the global rules of the founders that make us safe come under threat, we must take a stand and defend them. that is what our country has always done, and that is what we will continue to do. i will take a number of questions.
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i will start with laura. >> thank you, prime minister. your logic is that tentacle attacks -- chemical attacks must not go unpunished. will you do the same again if president assad does the same ?gain, as you suggested he has and do you feel you have the public consent, given that you have not even consulted mps in parliament? as i saidster may: in my statement, the purpose of the action last night was to degrade and deter the capability and willingness of the syrian regime to use chemical weapons. said, obviously, a full assessment has not been completed, but we believe that the action was successful. the syrian regime should be under no doubt that our resolve in relation to this matter and
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the use of chemical weapons. this decisionen because i believe it is the right thing to do. i believe it is in our national interest, but i also believe it is in -- important for the national community to be very clear about this issue, that we have seen people appearing to think that they can use chemical weapons with impunity. , asust restore the position i said, that has existed for nearly a century. the use of chemical weapons is illegal, band, and we cannot accept it. tim? >> thank you, prime minister. were hinting towards the end of your statement about possible against wider action supporters of the regime. explain why you have not yet taken action against russian money in london in the same way that the united dates has, and on a linked
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points, we are to be in a propaganda war with the russians. can you explain what you have been explained today, where the russian ambassador stirs -- ambassadors have been committing britain and culpability of the crimes you have explained? >> as you know and as i have said in response to the use of nerve agents on the streets of salisbury, we are, of course, looking at every aspect of the action that can be taken. we do, in general, work against illicit finances, against criminal finances here in the u.k., and we will continue to do so. i have not been out over the past week. i have given to television interviews where i set out the need for action and the need for us to restore the international norm of the recognition that chemical weapons should not be used. what i said in those interviews was that we were working with international partners and allies to ascertain and make the
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fullest possible assessment of what happened on the ground, and to ascertain what actions were necessary. we have done that, and the action that we saw last night into the early hours of this morning was the result of that work. adam? minister, i'm wondering if you can explain a little more your decision and you're thinking on not seeking prior approval or debate from parliament on this decision, because as you know, jeremy corbyn and kenneth clark on the other side have both said that they feel that should not have taken place, and there seems to broad turningf away from a precedent set back in 2003. as i justster may: said, i believe this action was necessary and that it was the right thing for us to do. we have been working with our allies and partners over the past week to make a close as possible assessment to what happened on the ground, and figure out what interactions
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were necessary, and do that in a timely faction -- fashion so we could act with sufficient understanding of what has happened on the ground and proper planning of any action, but to do so within a time scale gives us a very clear message to the regime. it was also important, and i believe it is important, as we are setting out, one of the greatest things, decisions a prime minister can take is to send our furthest personnel into action, into combat. when we do that, we owe it to possible, toas protect their security and safety. for security reasons, it was right that we acted in the way that we did, properly planned this, ss what happened, and acted within a timescale that is right to both protect operational security and give a very clear message to the regime. you explicitly linked the
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overnight action to the poisoning in salisbury. justhe overnight action about assad, or was it explicitly a warning to russia the secretary-general is warning that the cold war is back, and he is fearful that we do not have the institutional structures to contain it. how do we restore a sense of calm and security? prime minister may: first of all, i referred to what happened in salisbury because it was the use of a chemical weapon, a nerve agent on the streets of the united kingdom. the action that took place last night was an action that was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and the willingness of the syrian regime to continue to use chemical weapons.
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as i said, there have been many instances when we have in them using both chemical weapons. but it should also be a message to others that the international community is not going to stand by and allow chemical weapons to be used with impunity. we have for nearly a century now had a general understanding under the chemical weapons convention, that chemical weapons were a legal, the use was banned. in recent times, we have, all too often, seeing chemical being used. i think it is right the international community has come together and said that we will not accept this, and given a very clear message that we want nationalblish that norm, that chemical weapons are banned and should not be used. >> is chemical weapons are indeed used again in syria, will the united kingdom take part in
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more targeted strikes, and if it is in the coming weeks, parliament will no longer be in recess. toyou feel a bigger pressure actually ask for that green light, and how important is it to you that president macron is alongside and very much participating in this operation? how would you characterize the thoughts on the operation? prime minister may: on the parliamentary front, i should have made reference to this in previous questions, but i will be in parliament on monday to make a statement to parliament and give them the opportunity to question me about this. i believe it was right to take the action that we have done in the timing that we have done, as i have indicated, in relation to assessment planning and operational security. a very cleard
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message about the use of these chemical weapons. i believe that the action taken physically degraded the capability of the syrian regime to use chemical weapons. we want to deter their willingness to use chemical weapons as well, but they should have no doubt about our resolve, and i think it is an international resolve on these issues to ensure that we do return to the situation where it is accepted that the use of chemical weapons is illegal, bands, and should not be used. beennk obviously, this has withee-part operation .rance and the united states i think we have a close relationship with france on security and defense matters, which was honed in on with the franco-british summit we had earlier this year. yearse been over recent working increasingly closely together on these defense matters.
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>> [inaudible] will you authorize moves to carry out more -- [inaudible] i said inster may: relation to this, i will be going to parliament and making a statement in parliament. on the wider issue, i did address the wider issue, that this was a limited and targeted strike that took place last night, or a series of strikes that took place last night by the three partners, but no, there should not be any doubt in resolve on this issue, that we see a return to that international law on the prohibition and use of chemical weapons. iq. -- thank you. >> the syrian civil war has seen a huge displacement of people from the middle east to the
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west. i'm wondering if you think that your action today and the threat of further action from the west will exacerbate that and cause more people, more refugees to come to the west. can you tell us what extra planning and actions you will be taking to address that point and eve the pressure on nations and help the refugees themselves? prime minister may: you are right to say that the result of what has been taking place in syria over the last few years, seven years or so. we have seen a large number of people displaced within syria and in large number of refugees from syria being displaced, both in countries from the region and, of course, we have been receiving a number of syrian refugees here in the u.k. ourselves. our focus has always been on support for refugees in the region, with considerable support for countries that have been providing refuge for them. obviously, we certainly have three countries that are particularly be -- providing a
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refuge for them. the purpose of this action is to prevent further humanitarian suffering. i think nobody could have been anything but appalled by the things that we saw and read about from the attack that took , and i think it is right that the international community has acted to give clear messages about this use of chemical weapons. >> prime minister, are you concerned that perhaps you do not have the support of the british people for this action? 50% of peoplethat support further action in syria. your messages to people who are concerned about the actions you have taken? takenminister may: i have this decision because i think it is the right thing to do. i think my message to people about this is that this is about the use of chemical weapons.
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we have, for nearly 100 years now, had a generally accepted position in the international community that chemical weapons are a legal, the use is illegal, they are banned, and that has generally been accepted. we have seen that international law being eroded. it is being eroded a number of ways. as i said, we have seen a nerve agent used on the streets of the city in the united kingdom. we have seen the syrian regime continuing to use chemical weapons, despite the fact that after august 2013, they said they were dismantling their chemical weapons and russia guaranteed that that was taking place. that commitment has not been met. important that, for the alleviation of humanitarian suffering in syria, but also if we stand back and look at this more widely, i think it is in all of our interest that we restore national law on the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons. yes?
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how much did you agonize about this decision? did you keep -- did it keep you awake at night? prime minister may: as i said in my statement and have repeated sense, there is no graver decision that a prime minister send service to personnel into combat. decision that i have not taken lightly. have been decisions made at the national security council our cabinet, along with discussion with our american and french allies on this. at the end of the day, i thought it was the right thing to do. the sides, because we have seen this growing use of chemical weapons, i think we must say this must stop, and it is in all of our interest for us to ensure that the use of chemical weapons stops, and it is in the interest of all of our futures to ensure that the use of chemical weapons stops.
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on the front row, sorry? >> obviously there has been no parliamentary approval for this action for reasons of timing, apart from anything else. when parliament resumes next week, do you intend to try to get parliament as a whole to back your strategy, which clearly you are opening the door to possible, further action. do you intend to push for a vote to get parliament behind you? prime minister may: as i said and as you picked up in your question, the decision was taken for operational reasons after we had the opportunity to provide the fullest possible assessment and proper planning, and i believe it was the right thing to do. we will be getting more opportunities. the first opportunity when parliament recent will be on monday for me to go into parliament and make a statement, and to hear the views of parliamentarians on this issue.
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i will be very clear with parliament, as i have been clear this morning and have been clear with others, that this is not about action to intervene in the civil war. it is not about anything to do with regime change. it is about the use of chemical weapons. it is a limited and targeted series of strikes that have taken place in order to degrade and deter the capability to use chemical weapons. second row here? >> thank you, prime minister. statements, you have repeatedly talked about the victims of the douma incidents. have you considered or are you considering having some of these victims taken to have medical care, the same that was given to those scribbled in this country or in the west?
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the syrian regime has other chemical sites that have not been attacked. would you go after them, and would you enlarge your coalition? first of all, one of the issues that we have as the united kingdom together with other international parties has concern for is the ability to access and provide the support those whoto victims, have been suffering from the humanitarian catastrophe that has come from the use of chemical weapons but indeed more generally in syria. as you know, we have made a number of attempts through the united nations and in other ways to ensure proper humanitarian access to people, to ensure that they can be provided with the proper medical care. we will continue to push for that humanitarian access so that those who are innocent victims can be provided with the support that they need. as i said in response to other
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questions, i believe it is aportant that this was collective action taken by the u.k. with france and the united states. there have been a number other supported statements from other international leaders, coming out following the action. the intent of the international community now must be to make every effort through a variety of channels to ensure that we this very clear message about the use of chemical weapons. that is what this action has been about, and that is what we will continue to press on in a whole variety of ways. behind you? >> thank you, prime minister. continuing and the heightening tension between the west and russia, some people have started to call the situation a new cold war. what would you do or what could you do in order not to let this
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military activity lead to a new cold war? prime minister may: as i say, this action has been focused on the activities of the syrian regime. obviously, the syrian regime has been backed by russia. this action has been about chemical weapons. there is also the wider issue of restoring peace and stability and security in syria, political situations to that. we will continue to work with all partners, and russia's involvement in that will be a part of that to bring about the security and peace with syria for the future in a political solution with syria for the future. given the failure, as you have said in your statement, of all diplomatic efforts so far, what is the plan following the strikes? prime minister may: sorry? >> what is your plan following
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the strikes? prime minister may: as i said, diplomatic efforts in itself has not had the impact that we wished it would have. we have now taken the military action. alongside that, we reviewed deval patrick efforts -- renewed diplomatic efforts as well. some of those will need to be through the united nations to push for proper investigative opportunities, proper investigation and the holding of account of those who use the chemical weapons. the aim of this is due degrade operation capability of the syrian regime and to reduce their willingness to use chemical weapons. there is a wider issue of message for international communities about the use of chemical weapons, and we will continue to pursue that through the united nations and through other forms. >> thank you.
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were there any communications with the russian government or military about possible military action before it was taken? prime minister may: this is not something that the united kingdom has been involved in. as you would be aware, this is a complicated picture in terms of cooperation that take place in syria. couldured that we the --e and been devised minimize the impact on civilians and ensure that the strikes were absolutely targeted out there, which was the cable -- the chemical weapons capability of the syrian regime. >> thank you. --t would you say to britain to others who know your reprisals in the wake of the attacks?
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prime minister may: we have taken steps to ensure that we are providing support and have looked at those britons who are overseas that might be concerned about such attacks in the attacks,ffices, and -- and the foreign office is support, as it would do. prime minister, obviously -- inton the edge of going douma today. why not wait for formal proof that they used chemical weapons, as the russians are carefully framing information that there is no proof and that great britain is lying? prime minister may: first of all, we have made every effort over the past week to assess what has happened on the ground. as i have indicated in my statement, i have given a number of examples of the factors that were present that
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have led us to believe not just that this was a chemical weapons attack, but it was a weapons attack at the hands of the syrian regime. attack thatthe only has taken place. the reason for our actions is simply not just what happened in pattern. is a wider they have, on four previous occasions, investigated the syrian use of chemical weapons. i think it is important that there was a point at which we had the information that showed us that all the indications were that this with a chemical weapons attack at the hands of the syrian regime. the plan is being put in place that we took the action that was necessary. >> thank you. that chemical attacks happened before in syria and the u.k. did not take such measures as yesterday, do you think your decision last night about syria
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would have been the same if this sort of attack did not happen? prime minister may: we looked at this very much in terms of what happened in syria in the continued use of chemical weapons in syria. the united states chose to act alone in relation to those attacks. i believe it was right on this occasion that it was a wider collective action that took place, which showed the strength action that was being taken. it was significantly greater action that we have taken, but it also showed the strength of the international community's response. we have been concerned for some time about the use of chemical weapons in syria, and the evidence that has been gathered about that continued use of chemical weapons with such that we felt it was right to participate on this occasion. i have three more here. in the back? i am still a little unclear
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about what you see the role of parliament in this. in the event that the u.k. takes further military action, will you put that to a vote of mps? >> first of all, this decision -- made because i thought it was the right thing to do. at the first opportunity, parliament will have an opportunity to question this. i will be in parliament, as i have said, on monday in order to do so. the intent of this action is that it does degrade and deter the syrian regime from taking action. we will be following up with further diplomatic efforts in relation to this wider question of the use of chemical weapons. two more. >> in light of russia continuing to use its veto, are you
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concerned about the ongoing effectiveness of the united nations? prime minister may: i think my message would be this about the security council. number ship of the security council, permanent membership of the security council is only given to a limited number of countries. i think it is important that those who sit around that security council table take quite seriously the responsibility they have to the wider international community for decisions that are taken. i hope that the actions being will deter and to grade the syrian regime's capability and willingness to use chemical weapons, but will also send a message to others about the use of chemical weapons. it is illegal, bands, and should not happen. the gentleman on the second row? prime minister, you have been very clear that this was not about regime change. why not? is of the british position now that assad can stay as long as
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he does not use chemical weapons? no, as iister may: said i do have recognized, this was specifically about the use of chemical weapons. there is a wider question on the future political solution for syria, and that is a matter that we will continue to pursue in diplomatic channels and diplomatic and political channels with our international partners and allies. the last one i will take is from dave. i'm just wondering, in light with the benefit of hindsight, do you feel that what has happened over the past five years is demonstrating that the vote in 2013 to take no action proves that no action, taking no action in these cases can be as devastating as going in? prime minister may: as you would be aware, i was a member of the 2013.ment and 3 -- in i voted to take action in 2013. we felt at the time it was the right thing to do. following that, the commitments given by the syrian regime in relation to destroying their
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chemical weapons and the russian , the russia committed to guaranteeing it was taken place. that has not happened. i think it is right now that we have sent a very clear message by taking this military action. thank you. >> officials at the pentagon gave a briefing this morning on the airstrikes in syria, and took reporters >> i want to start by making one point clear. the use of

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