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Monica McWilliams: Time is not right to talk to ISIS

 Monica McWilliams
Staff Reporter

MONICA McWilliams has said she believes the time is not right to reach out to ISIS after a Labour leadership contender said he favoured dialogue with the terror group.

Owen Smith has come under fire for his remarks that to solve the crises facing Iraq and Syria “we will need to get people round the table”.

Professor McWilliams, a former member of the Northern Ireland Assembly who had a seat at the multi-party negotiations, was among a number of experts asked to give their opinion on Owen Smith's comments. She said she queried whether ISIS were ready to take part in talks.

“When we entered the talks in Northern Ireland we had about six different principles that we all had to agree upon. Clearly one of those was that we would adhere to and work towards resolving our difficulties through political means only and not by the use of any violent means,” she said.

McWilliams, who has more recently trained women to play a part in the Geneva peace talks on Syria, listed the key things to consider when negotiating with groups: “How representative are the group? How accountable are they? What are the structures you’re negotiating with? And are they able to carry through on what will be agreed and what will be be delivered?”

“I don’t think ISIS is at that stage. I don’t think ISIS is interested in being seen as representative and certainly not interested in being held to account – so I would be wary of who we would be negotiating with.”

In the controversial televised Labour leadership debate, Owen Smith said: “My view is that, ultimately, all solutions to these international crises do come about through dialogue, so eventually if we are to try to solve this all of the actors do need to be involved. But at the moment ISIL [ISIS] are clearly not interested in negotiating. At some point for us to resolve this, we will need to get people round the table.”

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