11/07/2013 04:37 BST | Updated 11/07/2013 06:58 BST

Srebrenica Anniversary Should Remind West To Avoid Same Mistakes In Syria, Suggests William Hague

William Hague has urged Western leaders not to repeat the mistakes of the past

William Hague has issued a thinly veiled warning to Western leaders, as well as Tory MPs, that they must consider the mistakes that led to the genocide in Srebrenica before resisting intervention in the bloody Syrian civil war.

Writing for The Huffington Post UK on Thursday, the foreign secretary said the 1995 massacre, in which at least 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed, should not be allowed to happen again.

"Some say that the legacy of Srebrenica can be seen in our foreign policy decisions today and that the lessons from Srebrenica apply as much to the international community as they do to the people and politicians of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

"The world was shaken by the events of summer 1995, and it is hard to deny that the international community was found wanting.

"One day, the true legacy of Srebrenica should be that such violence is never perpetrated again, whether in Europe or anywhere else in the world."

The United Nations was heavily criticised for failing to prevent the massacre. And John Major's resistance to involving Britain in the conflict also weighs heavily on the minds of many in Westminster. Guilt at the decision not intervene more decisively in Bosnia was arguably one of the driving force behind the subsequent British intervention in Kosovo.


Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who was defence secretary during the Bosnian War, has urged the government to arm the Syrian rebels. In June he told the Commons he did not want to see the "major mistake" made by the Major government repeated.

Hague's comments come as MPs are expected to vote heavily in favour of a demand that the Commons be given the right to veto any decision by David Cameron to deliver weapons to the anti-Assad rebels in Syria.

The debate and vote was granted following a petition by a cross-party group of MPs including senior members of the foreign affairs committee.

Many MPs will use the debate this afternoon to warn the prime minister and foreign secretary that arming the rebels would be a mistake.

John Baron, the Conservative member of the foreign affairs committee who is leading today's debate, said last week today's vote was "about putting a marker in the sand to make sure we don't get bounced into any sort of decision".

The government has said it has not yet made a decision over whether to take that step - however even if it wanted to it is highly unlikely to be able to win any Commons vote.

The Labour Party as well as the Lib Dems are deeply sceptical about shipping more weapons to the region, as are are a significant number of Tory backbenchers.

It has been reported that Hague is one the most hawkish members of the cabinet and is leading calls for a way to be found to arm the Syrian opposition.

The death toll in the civil war is now believed to have surpassed 100,000.