Millennium Post

US strikes on Syria illegal: Putin

Russia announced it will suspend deal it made with US in 2015 to prevent a mid-air collision over Syria hours after attack.

President Vladimir Putin believes that US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base broke international law and have seriously hurt US-Russia relations, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin as saying on Friday.

The Russian leader, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, regarded the US action as "aggression against a sovereign nation" on a "made-up pretext" and as a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, was cited as saying.

The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase earlier on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched this week.

Moscow had been hoping to cooperate with new US President Donald Trump to jointly fight the Islamic State militant group in Syria, a move it was banking on to improve battered US-Russia ties which are languishing at a post Cold War low.

But the US action caused consternation in Russia, angering the Kremlin and pro-Kremlin lawmakers who suggested it had dealt a significant blow to any hopes of doing business with Trump.

"Putin views the US strikes on Syria as aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext," Peskov was cited as saying. "Washington's step will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties."

Peskov was also quoted as saying that Russia did not believe that Syria possessed chemical weapons and that the US move would inevitably create a serious obstacle to creating an international coalition to fight terrorism, an idea that Putin has repeatedly pushed.

Meanwhile, Putin will hold a meeting of his security council later on Friday to discuss the US missile strikes on Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Russia announced on Friday that it will suspend a deal it made with the United States in 2015 to prevent a mid-air collision over Syria just hours after President Trump announced he authorized a missile attack on an airbase.

Peskov said Russia would keep technical and military channels of communication open with Washington, but would not exchange any information through them. "In light of the missile strikes, risks (of collisions between Russian and US aircraft) are significantly higher," the spokesman said.

The strikes were carried out in interests of Islamic State and other radical groups operating in Syria, Peskov added.

Syria consults allies after US missile attack

Syria is consulting with its allies on a response to the US missile strike that targeted a Syrian air base, Information Minister Ramez Turjman said on Friday. The minister said the Syrian leadership was consulting with Russia and Iran on the response to the "American aggression," reports Xinhua news agency.

The US launched a missile attack on the Shayrat Air Base in the central province of Homs in retaliation to the alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib.

'US strike foolish and irresponsible'

The US missile strike on an airbase in central Syria was "foolish and irresponsible," President Bashar al-Assad's office said. "What America did is nothing but foolish and irresponsible behaviour, which only reveals its short-sightedness and political and military blindness to reality," a statement said. The US fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at the Shayrat base in response to a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town on Tuesday widely blamed on the Damascus regime. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation, saying it had struck an arms depot belonging to a jihadist group. Assad's office said the government would redouble its efforts against rebel groups after the US strike - the first direct military action by Washington against the Damascus regime.

"This aggression has increased Syria's determination to strike these terrorist agents, to continue crushing them and to speed up the pace of work on this, wherever they are on Syrian territory," it said.

"The disgraceful act of targeting a sovereign state's airport demonstrates once again that different administrations do not change deeper policies."

The massive strike — US President Donald Trump's biggest military decision since taking office — marked a dramatic escalation in American involvement in Syria's six-year civil war.

It followed days of outrage at images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions from the suspected sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

The UN Security Council will meet on Friday at 11:30 am (local time) to discuss the US missile strikes on Syria, US diplomats said.

How the world reacted

PARIS: From strong messages of support to fierce condemnation, here are the main global reactions to a US strike on a Syria air base in response to a suspected chemical attack.

RUSSIA: Unsurprisingly, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was robust in its opposition to the strike. The strikes were an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms," the Kremlin said in a statement. The action has inflicted "considerable damage" to already "lamentable" US-Russia ties, it added. As a first practical response, Moscow said it would "halt" its deal with the US to avoid clashes in Syrian airspace. Russia also called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting following the strikes.

IRAN: The Iranian regime, another Syrian ally, "strongly condemned" the strike, just as it condemned "all unilateral military action". It said the US action was taken under the "pretext" of the chemical strike.

FRANCE/GERMANY: In a joint statement, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Assad bore "sole responsibility" for the US strike following the suspected chemical attack.

BRITAIN: The close American ally said it "fully supported" the strikes, judging them an "appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack". It said the strikes were "intended to deter further attacks."

TURKEY: NATO ally Turkey, which is a key player in the Syria conflict and has endured choppy relations with Washington recently, welcomed the strikes as "positive." The deputy foreign minister added: "We believe that the Assad regime must be punished completely in the international arena." Turkey called for a no-fly zone in Syria in the wake of the US strike.

SAUDI ARABIA: A foreign ministry official hailed US President Donald Trump as "courageous" for taking action when "the international community has failed to put a halt to the regime's actions."

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel "fully supports" the "strong and clear message" sent by the air strikes. He added that the message should "resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere."

JAPAN: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan "supports the US government's resolve that it will never tolerate the spread and use of chemical weapons."

CHINA: Beijing offered a nuanced reaction, saying it was "urgent" to avoid "further deterioration of the situation."

Sarin: The deadly nerve gas

Mounting evidence is pointing towards the nerve gas sarin as the chemical behind the attack that killed more than 80 people, including at least 27 children, in Syria's Idlib province earlier this week.

What is sarin?

Sarin, also known as GB, is clear, colorless, tasteless and has no odor in its pure form. It is described as "a human-made chemical warfare agent classified as a nerve agent," by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is generally a liquid, however it can evaporate into a gas and spread into the environment

When was sarin first produced?

Sarin, along with the nerve agents tabun and soman, was first produced by chemist Gerhard Schrader and his team in Germany in the late 1930s. The name is an acronym of the four scientists who created it: Gerhard Schrader, Otto Ambros, Gerhard Ritter, and Hans-Jürgen von der Linde.

Has sarin been used as a chemical weapon before?

Yes. In 2013, a team of UN chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that sarin had been used in an attack that killed as many as 1,400 men, women and children in Ghouta, a suburb on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government denied responsibility for the attack, as they did for the most recent incident. That 2013 attack was the most lethal use of chemicals in global warfare since the 1988 Halabja massacre, where Iraqi forces led by dictator Saddam Hussein killed thousands of their own civilians by using the gas. Sarin was also used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack by Shoko Asahara's cult, which killed 12 and sickened thousands.

Does the Syrian government have sarin stockpiles?

Following the 2013 Damascus attack, Syria joined the international Chemical Weapons Convention under a US-Russian deal and agreed to hand over its stockpile of about 2.8 million pounds of toxic weapons as well as disable its chemical weapons plan. In 2014, Syria handed over the remaining 220,462 metric tons of toxic material it had reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was set to be destroyed. However, OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu told Reuters at the time that he could not confirm. "All declared chemical weapons have left Syria (but) clearly we cannot say as the secretariat of the OPCW that Syria doesn't possess any chemical weapons any more," he said. AgenciesMounting evidence is pointing towards the nerve gas sarin as the chemical behind the attack that killed more than 80 people, including at least 27 children, in Syria's Idlib province earlier this week.
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