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Syria attack: France, UK back US military move; Trump takes u-turn; updates

Mike Pompeo said that 'a couple hundred Russians' were killed during US airstrikes on Syria

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

syria chemical attack
Photo Twitter: @Sophiemcneill

Seven US military aircraft have conducted reconnaissance missions near the coast of Syria, where Russia's Hmeymim airbase and Tartus naval base are located, Moscow's military flight monitoring centre tweeted on Friday. Six US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft departed from an airbase on the Italian island of Sicilia, and an EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft flew from the base on the Greek island of Crete, Xinhua news agency reported. The escalation of tension around Syria comes against the backdrop of reports on the latest use in Eastern Ghouta's Douma which killed 74 people including children.
US President on Thursday took a step back on comments he made about a possible attack on Syria, saying an attack could take place "very soon or not so soon at all". He has now also argued that he never signaled the timing of retaliation for a suspected attack, that he had suggested was imminent a day earlier. Trump's latest comment came in a tweet after warning Russia to "get ready" for a missile attack on its ally Syria. Despite that warning, Trump tweeted: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place."
Worries about a confrontation between Russia, Syria's big ally, and the West have been running high since Trump said on Wednesday that missiles "will be coming" in response to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, and lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump on Wednesday had vowed to punish not only President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for the attack, but also Syria’s Russian and Iranian allies. A Russian official said that any American missiles fired at Syria would be shot down, and Trump responded in a tweet that Russia should “get ready” for missiles that would be “nice and new and ‘smart.’”
Syria, Russia and Iran have denied the use of chemical weapons, accusing the rebels and rescue workers of concocting the story to gain sympathy as their defeat loomed.

Top 10 developments on Syria attack, and Russia reaction

1. Trump says 'very soon or not so soon at all': President said Thursday that a US missile strike on Syria may not be imminent. "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our 'Thank you America?'" Trump said on Twitter.

2. US airstrikes in February killed ‘a couple hundred Russians’, says Mike Pompeo: CIA Director said on Thursday that “a couple hundred Russians” were killed during US airstrikes on Syria earlier this year. Pompeo was speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state when he revealed details about the February 7 attack on Russian mercenaries. Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “a couple hundred Russians were killed.”

3. UNSC must prevent Syria spiralling out of control, says UN: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed to the five permanent members of the Security Council to break the current deadlock on reported use of in Syria and prevent the situation spiralling out of control in the war-torn country. "I have also been closely following developments in the Security Council and regret that the Council has so far been unable to reach agreement on this issue, Guterres said in a statement. "Let us not forget that, ultimately, our efforts must be about ending the terrible suffering of the Syrian people," he added. Guterres said that he called the ambassadors of the five permanent Council members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on Wednesday to reiterate his "deep concern about the risks of the current impasse" and stressed the need to "avoid the situation spiraling out of control."

4. UK backs US military action on Syria: The British government has signaled that it was ready to back US military action against Syria, saying it was "highly likely" the used on its own people and that such action could not go unchallenged. British Prime Minister Theresa May's senior ministers agreed on the need for action at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, but Downing Street did not specify what measures the UK would take, reports CNN.

According to the statement, May described the chemical attack on Douma in Eastern Ghouta as a "shocking and barbaric act which killed up to 75 people, including children, in the most appalling and inhumane way". Britain would work with the US and France to coordinate an response, it added.

5. Germany will not join potential strike against Syria, says Merkel: "Germany will not participate in a potential -- and I must emphasize that no decision has been made so far -- military intervention," German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel said.
Merkel also stressed, however, that the use of was always "unacceptable".
Berlin said it would consequently direct its energy towards non-violent means of preventing the use of further in Syria, for example by supporting the activities of the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of (OPCW).
6. Putin, Erdogan express concern over Syria: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced concern over developments in and around Syria during a telephonic conversation, the Kremlin said. The two presidents stressed the importance of ensuring necessary conditions for the work of the Organization for the Prohibition of mission sent to Syria to investigate an alleged chemical weapon attack, the Kremlin said on Thursday, Xinhua reported. "Both leaders spoke in favour of stepping up the political settlement process in Syria based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the decisions made by the (Syrian) National Dialogue Congress in Sochi," the Kremlin said.
7. Global stocks bounce as Trump changes tack on Syria: Global stocks recovered to three-week highs on Friday as anticipated strong earnings season took centre stage after U.S. President backtracked on his suggestion of an imminent missile attack on Syria. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ticked up 0.1 per cent while Japan's Nikkei gained 0.8 per cent. MSCI's broadest gauge of the world's stock markets also edged up 0.1 per cent after hitting a three-week high on Thursday. In New York, the S&P 500 gained 0.83 percent, led by a 1.83 percent gain in financials after strong quarterly results from BlackRock Inc boosted optimism for corporate earnings.
8. Russian UN envoy warns against US military action on Syria: Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia has warned the US against military action on Syria. "We hope that there will be no point of no return, that the US and the allies will refrain from military action against a sovereign state," Nebenzia told reporters on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported. "We are very concerned about the situation, about the dangerous escalation."
He said any US military action against Syria would be a violation of law. Even the threat of use of force is against the UN Charter, he said.
9. Trump decision on strike 'fairly soon': US President has said a decision on action in Syria will be made "fairly soon". He told reporters on Thursday that he and his team were looking "very, very seriously" at the situation, following an alleged chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma, BBC reported. Western powers are thought to be preparing for strikes.
10. Syria's Afrin gets council after Kurd militia ousted, reports Turkish media: Civilian representatives from Kurd, Arab and Turkmen communities have set up a council in the northern Syrian town of Afrin, which was taken by the Turkish army and allied rebels from Kurdish militia last month, state media said.
France has proof used chemical weapons, says Macron: French President Emmanuel Macron said that he had evidence that were used in rebel-held enclave of Douma in Syria and that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was guilty, reiterating that attacking Damascus is necessary. Macron was one of several Western leaders to enter the diplomatic crisis following last week's attack on Douma, which left 70 people dead, including 40 who showed signs of exposure to chemical toxins, Efe news reported citing a report by the World Health Organization. "We have evidence were used and that it was the regime who used them," said Macron in a televised interview with TF1 broadcaster. "We will have a decision to take in due course."
Syria prepared, not fearing US threats of strike, says Adviser: Bouthaina Shabaan, the political and media adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, said that her country is not fearing the US threats of striking Syria. In an interview with pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV, Shabaan said the US threats of striking Syria aim to practice more pressure to make more gains, Xinhua reported. She stressed that consultations are ongoing among the allies of Syria and they will not leave things to go Washington's way.
FEARS OF WAR
Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations, said he "cannot exclude" war between the United States and Russia and urged Washington and its allies to refrain from military action against Syria.
"The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war," he told reporters. "We hope there will be no point of no return," the envoy said.
A team of experts from the global watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was traveling to Syria and will start its investigations on Saturday, the Netherlands-based agency said.
It was not clear whether Trump and U.S. allies would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding on a possible strike.


With Agency inputs

First Published: Fri, April 13 2018. 13:41 IST
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