Well-known British journalists write on Syria from the safety of Istanbul, Beirut and Cairo. Few actually get inside the country, so their information is gained at second-hand, often from Al Jazira and Al Arabiyah broadcasts, which reflect the views of Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively.
Some members of the House of Lords, however, have tried to see for themselves what is happening, by going there and listening to a wide variety of Syrians. They have included retired Bishop Nazir Ali, Baroness Cox, Lord Carey (former Archbishop of Canterbury), and myself. Together we seek to be a voice for the voiceless. We have guarded our independence by paying for our own travel and expenses.
My personal conclusions are as follows:
1: Despite inflation, for most Syrians life in 2017 has improved from what it has been in the previous five years. Refugees are beginning to return.
2: We noticed particularly the friendship and cooperation between Muslim Imams and Christian clergy. Despite some atrocities by extremists, Muslims and Christians go on living alongside each other, as they have done for centuries. For example, in the mainly Christian town of Maalula, there are two functioning mosques. Both leaders and ordinary people want common citizenship for all, and a secular constitution, allowing everyone to thrive.
3: Many people whom we met asked for the removal of economic and other sanctions. These, they said, harm the people without having much impact on their Government.
4: Most people we met support a political solution to the war. Peace, if it can be achieved, would restore both agriculture and industry. It would bring back tourists of all kinds. Syria is potentially a rich country.
5: In my opinion the UK should restore at least low-level diplomatic relations. This would help to prevent undue influence by Russia, Iran, Turkey and China. The case of Tehran provides a precedent for doing so. Restoring some relations would assist us in regaining the influence we have lost.
If you can discuss the above points with your MP, please do so.