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Britain must engage more in Middle East conflicts, says Boris Johnson

Middle East conflicts have been 'exacerbated' by Britain's 'aloofness', Boris Johnson says [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 December, 2017

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UK's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Britain should not be paralysed by scars of intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya but be 'part of the solution' in the Middle East.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Britain should return to Middle East war zones, and can help to resolve troubles in Syria and Yemen.

Johnson said Britain should not be paralysed by contentious interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and instead be "part of the solution" in the region to avoid decades of terror and instability.

In a speech on Thursday setting out his vision for foreign policy post-Brexit, Johnson is expected to say conflicts such as Yemen, Syria and the wider region "have been exacerbated not so much by Western meddling as by our aloofness", the Telegraph reported.

His London speech comes a day after US President Donald Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, despite strong opposition from Western allies, and the risk of fuelling further unrest.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the move on Wednesday saying it was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace".

Future engagement in the Middle East will include military muscle and investment in women's education, Johnson is to say.
Read more: Boris Johnson's 'English lion' is an imperial embarrassment
While accepting that mistakes were made in Iraq, Johnson will challenge the idea that the years of civil strife and the emergence of Islamic State following the 2003 invasion were the result of Western intervention.

"It is a fallacy that is at once glib, egotistical and which simply feeds the narrative of the jihadis," he is to say, urging leaders of the Muslim world to confront "Islamist terror" whose victims are 98 percent Muslim.

Turning his intention to Syria and Britain's failure to intervene following the Assad regime's 2013 chemical attack, Johnson will argue that it is time "to collectively re-insert ourselves" into Syria. 

"We willed the end, and failed to will the means - leaving the pitch wide open for Russia and Iran.  

"I am afraid that we must adjust to reality and accept that our policy has not succeeded."

He will add: "We need more engagement, not less, because if you look at events since 2013, when Britain and the US decided not to intervene in Syria even after Assad has used chemical weapons, you could not say that we managed to insulate ourselves from the region."

The retreat of Western support resulted in ungoverned vacuums that allowed the "virus" of militancy to spread, he will say.

Instead of going into a "sulk" Britain must resolve the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, while looking to unite factions in Libya, he will add.

As well as military contributions, Johnson says he wants to see British aid go towards women's literacy and push universities in the region to become bigger players on the world stage.

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