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Owen Smith accused of being unfit for office over IS 'peace talks' remarks

Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith took part in a BBC debate. File pic
Gavin Cordon and Jack Maidment, Press Association Political Staff

LABOUR leadership contender Owen Smith has been accused of being unfit for high office after he suggested Islamic State (IS) would have to be brought into peace talks to end the Syrian civil war.

In the latest leadership debate, Mr Smith said that "all of the actors" involved in the conflict would have to be brought into the negotiations if there was to be a successful conclusion to the conflict.

His comments sparked an outcry, with one Conservative member of the Commons Defence Committee - former Army officer Johnny Mercer - saying they showed his "unfitness for leadership".

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said the remarks were "hasty and ill-considered".

In contrast to Mr Smith, the Labour leader insisted that there could be no place for the terror group - also referred to as Isil, Isis or Daesh - at the negotiating table.

Asked by presenter Victoria Derbyshire in the BBC televised debate whether IS should be included in peace talks, Mr Smith referred to his time as a special adviser to Northern Ireland secretary Paul (now Lord) Murphy to argue that all parties to the conflict should be involved.

"Ultimately all solutions to these sorts of international crises do come about through dialogue so eventually, if we are to try and solve this, all of the actors do need to be involved.

"But at the moment Isil are clearly not interested in negotiating," he said.

Asked the same question, Mr Corbyn said: "They are not going to be round the table. No."

Mr Mercer said: "Owen Smith's suggestion that we should get Isis 'round the table' demonstrates his unfitness for leadership.

"Everyone knows negotiation is far more desirable than violence in any conflict, but to suggest it in this case is to entirely misunderstand and fail to grasp the challenge posed by Daesh.

"His desperate attempts to out-Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn have led him to the view that barbaric murderers who behead journalists and lynch homosexuals are now the sort of people that we should negotiate with."


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