A citizen journalism handout image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen is said to show UN weapons inspectors arriving for investigations at Zamalka, east of Damscus, Syria, 29 August: EPA/LOCAL COMMITEE OF ARBEEN
Unlike Prime Minister Donald Tusk - who declared on Wednesday that the Polish government thought that a military response to the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week “would not have the desired effect,” without putting the issue to parliament - the UK’s prime minister David Cameron did put the issue to a vote by MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday evening.
Thirty of Cameron’s own Conservative party MPs voted with the opposition Labour party in defeating a motion which would, in principle, have supported military intervention in Syria.
“I understand the deep scepticism that many of my colleagues in parliament, many members of the public have, about British military involvement in Syria,” the UK’s finance minister, George Osborne told the BBC on Friday morning.
“I hope this doesn’t become a moment when we turn our back on all of the world’s problems,” he added.
Polish foreign minister Radolsaw Sikorski said of the vote in the House of Commons that, “the international community needs to be convinced of the quality of evidence gathered by UN inspectors".
Sikorski told the TVP broadcaster that he has consulted this week on the issue with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and foreign ministers of Germany, France , Sweden, Denmark and Italy, as well the US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Meanwhile, Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that military action in Syria has "neither been asked nor is it being considered by us".
"We are pushing for the United Nations Security Council to find a common position and for the work of UN inspectors to be finished as quickly as possible," expatica.com reports the minister as saying.
Opinion polls in the UK show that only around 10 percent would support military strikes and in Germany, the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen polling group found that 58 percent of respondents voiced opposition to military action in Syria.
In Poland, a poll by the Homo Homini institute found that just 15 percent of Poles would support military action.
Coalition of the willing
Former president of Poland, Lech Walesa told Polish Radio this morning that “the United States risks losing its political leadership role in the world if it goes ahead with military action”.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tusk said that, “we have experience in this part of the world, which shows that military intervention, even from the most obvious and noble motives, rarely produces the desired effect.”
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said, however, that Washington would continue to seek a ‘coalition of the willing’ among its allies for military action against the President Assad regime in Damascus.
President Hollande of France has told the Le Monde newspaper that the UK vote made no difference to his support for action against the Syrian government.
"Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France," he said, adding that he is not ruling out any response to the suspected chemical attack, which killed hundreds of Syrians in a suburb of Damuscus.
Another NATO member, Turkey, has also said that it would support military action.
UN experts are due to finish their work examining whether a chemical attack did take place later on Friday and will give their preliminary findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the weekend.
More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, which has created at least 1.7 million refugees. (pg)