Scots 'should care about war in Middle East'

THE conflict in the Middle East may seem like a distant problem that has little to do with us, but one Scottish MP believes the opposite.

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Michael McCann, the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, has just returned from a trip to Lebanon, Jordan, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel as part of his work as a member of the International Development Select Committee.

The committee analyses the impact of UK aid in supporting the Syrian refugee crisis and efforts to find peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Michael described the decades of conflict in the region as having the "potential to become the epicentre of a third world war" and is a staunch supporter of providing foreign aid to those in need.

He said: "The Arab Spring has run dry and Syria is engulfed in violence.

"There is no good or bad side in the civil war.

"Assad's forces fight its opponents, while un-allied opponents fight Assad and each other.

"Some 9.3million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, 6.5m are internally displaced and 2.4m are in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

"I was shown before and after shots of Syrian cities. Previously bustling streets, full of life, are now flattened. But I think, like me, you'd be moved and proud of our country's efforts to help Syrian refugees.

"I've heard people say charity begins at home, why is somewhere like Syria our problem? Not only is helping innocent people the right thing to do, it's in our country's interest to do so."

The UK has provided £600m in aid to the region, second only to the USA.

UK Aid provides shelter, bedding, health, sanitation, food and water.

In Jordan, Michael visited the Za'atari refugee camp, which houses 100,000 Syrian refugees.

Michael said: "The Lebanese and Jordanian people deserve our respect. These small states have taken in 2.4m refugees. A quarter of Lebanon's population is refugees. If the United Kingdom faced the same humanitarian crisis it would be the equivalent of three times Scotland's population of 5m crossing into England and camping in the Yorkshire dales.

"Yet the Lebanese are allowing the refugees to set up tented homes in their back gardens and have given them clothes and food."

Meanwhile, the tension between Israel and Palestine seems, from the outside, unlikely ever to be settled.

But Michael believes there is an appetite for peace. He added: I know full well the threats the Israelis face - rocket attacks from Gaza, the ever-present danger of terror on the streets and war on its borders.

"But I listened to Palestinian politicians who I believe are sincere about peace. The biggest obstacle is trust."

For more information on the committee's work, log on to bit.ly/Phmvz8

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