John Kerry Insists UK-US Special Relationship Will Survive Syria Vote

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JOHN KERRY
US Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question during a news conference at the United States Embassy in Paris, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. The Obama administration is distributing videos showing a chemical weapons attack in Syria to help convince Americans and Congress that a military intervention against the Syrian government is necessary, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday. Speaking at a press conference in Paris, Kerry said the videos make clear that the attack is not something Americ | AP

John Kerry has insisted parliament's decision to block British involvement in a military strike on Syria has not damaged the UK's relationship with Washington.

Speaking at a press conference in London on Monday morning, the US secretary of state said the "special relationship" was strong "before a vote the other day in parliament and it will be for long afterwards".

"Our bond is bigger than one vote, it's bigger than one moment in history, it is about values," he said. "We have no better partner in that effort than Great Britain and we are grateful for that. Our special relationship with the UK is not just about Syria."

David Cameron's plan to lend British military support to a United States led attack on the Syrian regime was humiliatingly derailed after Ed Miliband and Conservative backbenchers blocked parliamentary approval for action.

The defeat in the Commons led to suggestions Britain's relationship with the United States had been damaged. And despite Kerry's warm words it is deeply embarrassing for Cameron to have to watch from the sidelines while the US and France push for the use of force.

Kerry met with William Hague today on the last leg of a whistle-stop tour of Europe before heading home to Washington to try and persuade a sceptical US congress to vote in favour of the use of force against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

In an emotive appeal to congress from London, Kerry said if the West failed to stand up to Assad then he would be more likely to use chemical weapons again. "The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting and everybody needs to stop and think about that hard," he said.

"I think its important for us to stand up as nations for civility and against actions that challenge notions of humanity and decency. For almost 100 years the world has stood together against the use of chemical weapons and we need to hear an appropriate outcry."

Kerry also said president Obama's decision to put military action to a vote in congress was one "based on his gut" and was made "notwithstanding" the vote in the British parliament. "I can't tell you if a vote [in Britain] had been different the president would have made a different decision at all," he said.

And he refused to be drawn on the suggestion that Obama may choose to take military action even if congress votes against the move.

Obama faces an uphill battle to convince members of the House of Representatives to vote in favour of military strikes - amid fears the US could be sucked into another protracted war in the Middle East. Something Kerry was at pains to play down.

"We are not going to war," he said. We will be able to hold Bashar Asad accountable without engaging with troops on the ground. In a very limited very targeted very short term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war."

He added: "That is exactly what we are talking about doing, unbelievably small limited kind of effort."

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