Russia, Syria, and Iran strongly warned the US on Friday against launching new strikes on Syria and called for an international probe into the chemical attack that was blamed on Assad regime and killed more than 87 civilians
More than 87 civilians were killed in Syria in a new chemical attack carried out by Assad regime’s air force on the rebel-held Idlib province on April 4.
Medical sources said that more than 300 other civilians were injured in this attack, and many of them were transferred to hospitals near the Turkish borders or inside Turkey, where poison tests were made.
In a sharp escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria, two U.S. warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by Assad regime forces from which the attack as carried out.
Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack.
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said on Thursday.
Russia condemned the strikes, saying Washington’s action would “inflict major damage on US-Russia ties”, according to Russian news agencies.
Russia has also claimed the victims were killed by toxic agents released from a rebel chemical arsenal and has pushed for an international probe.
Warning to the US
As he hosted his Iranian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow on Friday for a trilateral meeting focused on the Syrian civil war, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said similar attacks would have “grave consequences not only for regional but global security”.
“We have reiterated our position and were united in stating that the attack was an act of aggression, which blatantly violated the principles of international law and the UN Charter,” Lavrov said.
“We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramifications not only for regional but also global security.
“We will not allow the peace process to be disrupted,” he added.
Lavrov said the US strike on the Syrian base has undermined peace efforts and reflects Washington’s focus on ousting Assad. “Such attempts won’t succeed,” Lavrov said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the participants warned that any unilateral action by the US is unacceptable.
The three countries are calling for two investigations, an independent probe into the chemical attack and another investigation into the US missile strike.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem welcomed international inspectors to visit the base, which Washington claimed had served as a platform for the attack.
“The Syrian government repeatedly said it does not have chemical weapons. That is because they were all seized in 2014. What happened in Khan Sheikhoun is a fabrication and the Syrian air force did not target anyone with chemical weapons.
“We did not use them against terrorist groups or on our own people. We condemn any use of chemical weapons,” Muallem said.
“Proper” investigation in the chemical attack
Moscow vetoed a Western-drafted UN resolution on Wednesday, saying it failed to mention the need to inspect the area of the attack.
Lavrov accused the US and its allies of trying to stymie an international probe into the attack.
He expressed strong skepticism about a preliminary investigation conducted by the UN chemical weapons watchdog, saying its experts failed to visit the site, and it is unclear to Russia where the samples have been taken and how they have been analyzed.
In Russia’s view, the probe conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) should be widened to include experts from many nations, he said.
“If our US colleagues and some European nations believe that their version is right, they have no reason to fear the creation of such an independent group,” Lavrov added.
“The investigation into this high-profile incident must be transparent and leave no doubt that someone is trying to hide something.”
Chemical weapons experts sent for investigations
The fact-finding mission was sent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to gather biometric samples and interview survivors, sources said on Thursday.
Samples taken from the poison gas site in Syria’s Idlib governorate tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the OPCW said on Thursday.
“UK scientists have analyzed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the delegation said during a special session on Syria at the OPCW in The Hague.
The UK result confirmed earlier testing by Turkish authorities that concluded that sarin had been used for the first time on a large scale in Syria’s civil war since 2013.
The OPCW mission will determine whether chemical weapons were used, but is not mandated to assign blame. Its findings, expected in 3-4 weeks, will be passed to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation tasked with identifying individuals or institutions responsible for using chemical weapons.
International investigators have concluded that sarin, chlorine and sulfur mustard gas have been used in Syria’s six-year-old conflict, with government forces using chlorine and Islamic State militants using sulfur mustard.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.