EURASIA >Russia, Iran condemn US strike

MOSCOW

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Moscow and Tehran have furiously condemned the American air strike on a Syrian air base on April 7, which marked the first direct U.S. assault on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Al-Assad’s office called the strike “foolish and irresponsible” and Moscow announced a series of retaliatory steps, including plans to strengthen Syrian air defenses.

Russia also demanded an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council and of the International Syria Support Group’s cease-fire task force.

The strike, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from Navy ships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield at 3:40 a.m. (12:40 a.m. GMT), came a few days after a suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun killed at least 86 people, which U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies blamed on al-Assad.

“What America did is nothing but foolish and irresponsible behavior, which only reveals its short-sightedness and political and military blindness to reality,” al-Assad’s office said in a statement.

The Syrian regime has denied using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhun.

With U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson due in Moscow next week, the Kremlin called the U.S. strike a “gross ... violation of international law” and warned it would inflict “considerable damage” on U.S.-Russia ties.
It immediately suspended a deal with the United States aimed at avoiding clashes in Syrian airspace.

Under the deal, signed after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in September 2015, Russia and the U.S. had exchanged information about their flights to avoid incidents in the crowded skies over Syria.

A spokesman for the U.S-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said on April 7 that he was aware of reports that Russia intended to suspend a communication channel with the United States for avoiding air accidents over the skies of Syria.

The Russian military also announced a series of measures “to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the Syrian armed forces’ air defense system” in the wake of the strike.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, another staunch al-Assad ally, said on Twitter that the U.S. strike was based on “bogus CW [chemical weapons] allegations” and would aid jihadists in Syria like ISIL.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the country’s security council on April 7 and discussed keeping Russia’s air force presence in Syria following the U.S. missile strikes, the Kremlin said.

“The meeting expressed deep concern about the unavoidable negative consequences stemming from the aggressive action for the fight against global terrorism,” it said in a statement. 

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the U.S. strikes came “within an inch” of militarily clashing with Russia. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on April 7 that he hoped U.S. missile strikes on Syria would not irreparably damage relations between Moscow and Washington.

“This is an act of aggression, on an absolutely made-up pretext,” Lavrov told a news conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. “It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq.”

The Russian military said the strike had an “extremely low” military impact, with fewer than half of the 59 missiles reaching the base, a statement contrary to the U.S. army’s statement that almost all of the tomahawks had reached their targets.

U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told The Associated Press that his office was in “crisis management mode” following the U.S. strike on Syria. De Mistura said he was set to convene an “emergency meeting” later on April 7 of the International Syria Support Group’s cease-fire task force. He said Russia requested the meeting, which was “agreed upon” by the U.S.

The two countries are the co-chairs of the multi-country panel that meets regularly in Geneva.

The U.N. Security Council was also set to meet on April 7 to discuss the U.S. missile strikes on Syria, U.S. diplomats said.

Russia demanded an emergency meeting after angrily denouncing the military action as an “aggression against a sovereign state.”

Meanwhile, Egypt called on the U.S. and Russia to contain the conflict in Syria and reach a comprehensive solution, a statement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on April 7.

“Egypt calls on the United States and Russia to move effectively on the basis of international legitimacy resolutions, and the capabilities of both countries, to contain the conflict and reach a comprehensive and final solution to the Syrian crisis,” the statement said.

April/07/2017

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