UK MP Andrew Mitchell
A senior member of the UK Parliament has called on the government to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and allow British fighter jets attack Russian warplanes that breach it.
Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s former international development secretary, told BBC that if shooting down Russian jets ends the conflict in Syria, then that is what Britain and its allies should focus on.
“What we are saying is very clear. No one wants to see a firefight with Russia, no one wants to shoot down a Russian plane,” Mitchell said. “But what we do say is that the international community has an avowed responsibility to protect and that protection must be exerted.
“If that means confronting Russian air power defensively, on behalf of the innocent people on the ground who we are trying to protect, then we should do that,” the top Tory MP noted.
Mitchell said attacking Russian jets would not amount to a “declaration of war against Russia” and was rather a sign that Britain will stand against Moscow’s “war crimes.”
Russian servicemen prepare a SU-34 fighter jet for a mission from a military base in Latakia province, northwest of Syria, May 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The lawmaker said Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet over Syria last year served as a good example that firing a warning shot at the Russians would not provoke a war.
He admitted that London cannot introduce a no-flying zone on its own and should seek assistant from its allies such as the US and other NATO members.
A UK Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon (Photo by AFP)
Mitchell’s anti-Russian remarks echoed those of UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who on Tuesday said he would “like to see” demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London because of its air campaign in Syria.
The call for protests elicited a strong response from the Kremlin, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denouncing it as “shameful.”
Johnson had also blamed Russia for an attack on an aid convoy near Aleppo in late August, a claim that Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov dismissed as “Russophobic hysteria.”
Russia has been engaged in an aerial campaign against terrorist groups in Syria upon a request by Damascus, dealing heavy blows to the Takfiri militants in places like the Aleppo province.
Relations between London and Moscow have deteriorated in past years over their differences on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Britain has been one of the most fervent supporters of Western sanctions against Russia.