Bashar-ing the Bishop: Rowan Williams to Speak at Pro-Assad Conference

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will share a platform with two Syrian government officials loyal to the butcher Bashar Al-Assad. Williams – who is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge – will address a conference hosted by The European Centre for the Study of Extremism, described by Syrian campaigners as a pro-Assad puppet organisation. The former Church of England leader will speak alongside Ali Haidar, a minister in the Assad government and general secretary of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (which runs a notorious militia fighting for Assad), and Bishr Riyad Yaziji, another Assad government minister. Both Haidar and Yaziji are asset freeze targets of the British government…

The conference will also be attended by Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian Ambassador to the UK. Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock was a patron of the group, but last week withdrew his support citing its “pro-Assad stance“:

Williams has proven more stubborn, despite pleas from an alliance of UK Syrian interest groups:

“We are concerned that a great many people who we expect not to share pro-regime sympathies are involved with this propaganda exercise.”

Williams is understood to be issuing this standard reply to concerned:

“I have made it clear that I have no intention of defending the Government of Syria against well-founded charges of human rights abuses, and I have as yet seen no clear evidence that the event is designed simply as a propagandist exercise. You may be sure that I should strongly resist any attempt to make it such. My concern is simply to ask what can be done to move the discussion further towards a just and sustainable peace, guaranteeing the democratic rights of all.”

UPDATE: Rowan Williams tells Guido:

“No other comment beyond the fact that I’d hope others will wait to see if this conference actually delivers a independent perspective.”

Kinnock did the sensible thing and pulled out as soon as he was made aware of the situation, remarkable that Williams is still attending…




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