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by Luke James
OWEN SMITH was mired in controversy yesterday after suggesting that Isis should be invited to peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.
The Labour leadership contender said that “all the actors” must be brought round the table to end the brutal conflict, including the notorious terror group.
Mr Smith rapidly rowed back on the comments, which he made during a televised hustings with Jeremy Corbyn, after being condemned by figures from the left and right of politics.
Asked by host Victoria Derbyshire whether Isis should be involved in negotiations, Mr Smith referred to his time as a special adviser to former Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy.
He said: “Ultimately all solutions to these sorts of 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 are clearly not interested in negotiating.” Asked the same question, Mr Corbyn said: “They are not going to be round the table. No.”
A spokesman for the Jeremy For Labour campaign said later that Mr Smith’s comments were “hasty and ill-considered.”
“Jeremy has always argued that there must be a negotiated political solution to the war in Syria and the wider Middle East, and that maintaining lines of communication during conflicts is essential,” said the spokesperson.
“But Isis cannot be part of those negotiations. Instead, its sources of funding and supplies must be cut off.”
Tory MP Johnny Mercer MP, a member of the defence select committee, said the comment “demonstrates his unfitness for leadership.
“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,” he added.
A spokesman for Mr Smith later sought to clarify his comments, saying he believed there could be no negotiation with Isis unless they “renounce violence, cease all acts of terror and commit themselves to a peaceful settlement.”
One Labour source told the International Business Times that Mr Smith makes “more gaffes than Frank Spencer.”
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