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Church trip to Syria hours after UK air strike labelled 'nuts'

Several UK church figures and House of Lords members met Syrian officials on Saturday in a trip described by one journalist as "nuts".

The meeting was said to mark a sign of solidarity with the country's Christian minority but a decision to press ahead with the trip - hours after UK warplanes struck suspect chemical weapons facilities - was questioned.

One reporter who joined the visit was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as describing the meeting as "nauseating" and the timing as "absolutely nuts".

 

Priest and columnist Giles Fraser, Christian peer Baroness Cox and former Bishop of Exeter Michael Langrish travelled to the Syria capital on a visit arranged by Anglican vicar Rev Andrew Ashdown.

Writing on Twitter, Rev Fraser said: "With the Grand Mufti of Syria - the top Muslim cleric in Syria - in the astonishing Umayyad Mosque in central Damascus talking about how love is stronger than missiles.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trey Fowler/US Department of Defence/PA Wire

 

"Very warm greeting despite the bombings."

A military operation by US, UK and France at the weekend (pictured) was discussed during talks between the visiting delegation and Youssef Sabbagh, the speaker of the People's Council of Syria - as well as 20 MPs.

HA Hellyer, a senior research fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London told the Telegraph: "When British peers and Christian clergy have been to Damascus in the past, they were rightly condemned as presenting an image of appeasement to Assad's regime, and showing him as some sort of protector of Christians, as though Syrian Muslims mattered for nought."

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