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Middle East

Russia condemns US strikes on Syria as a 'violation of international law'

© US Navy, AFP | A Tomahawk Missile is launched from the USS Stethem during the biennial Valiant Shield, field-training exercise, on September 20, 2016.

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-07

Russia and Iran have strongly condemned overnight US air strikes on a Syrian base, with the Kremlin calling the action a "violation of international law". French, Israeli and Turkish officials have welcomed the US military action.

In a statement released early on Friday, the Kremlin denounced the US strikes as an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law".

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, said the Russian president believes that the US launched the strikes under a "far-fetched pretext". Russia has argued that the death of civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday resulted from Syrian forces hitting a rebel chemical arsenal there and not from the regime's use of banned chemical weapons.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia will demand an explanation from the United States over its decision to launch strikes, calling it a “provocation”. Russia also suspended a bilateral air safety agreement to help avoid collisions over the war-torn country.

The head of the defence and security committee at the upper house of parliament, Viktor Ozerov, earlier said that Russia would call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.

Moscow condemns 'violation of sovereign state'

Iran has also strongly condemned US missile strikes against a Syrian airbase, the Students News Agency ISNA quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Friday.

"Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes ... such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria ... and it will complicate the situation in Syria and the region," ISNA quoted Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Assad ‘carries full responsibility’

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the military action, however, saying he "fully supports" the decision. In a statement on Friday Netanyahu said that "in both word and action" US President Donald Trump had "sent a strong and clear message" that "the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated".

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were both informed of the strikes in advance. They released a joint statement on Friday following a morning phone call.

“[Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad carries the full responsibility for this development. His continuous recourse to chemical weapons and to mass crimes cannot go unpunished," they said. "This is what France demanded in the summer of 2013 after the chemical attack in Ghouta.”

Hollande later said that the strikes must be followed up at the international level, preferably with UN action.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the strikes sent a message to the "criminal regime" of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

"Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime," Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, where he is on a diplomatic visit.

Ayrault went on to say that Russia and Iran needed to understand that there was no future in supporting Assad. In an early morning tweet on Friday, Ayrault said that Assad must be considered a "war criminal".

Analysis: 'Few options' for Russia to respond

Turkey calls for no-fly zone

The British government also welcomed the US strikes, as did the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a longtime opponent of the Assad regime.

"I want to say that I welcome this concrete step as positive," Erdogan said at a rally in the southern city of Antakya, just north of the Syrian border, calling for further action against the Syrian regime.

Earlier, his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the strike against the Sharyat airbase in Homs, northern Syria, was "a positive response" to the "war crimes" committed by Assad loyalists.

"In order to prevent similar massacres from happening again, it is necessary to enforce a no-fly zone and create safe zones in Syria without further delay," he added in a statement.

Kalin said: "The destruction of the Sharyat airbase marks an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished."

US President Donald Trump ordered the strike in retaliation for what he said was a "very barbaric attack", which he blamed squarely on the Syrian regime.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-04-07


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