Airstrikes were ‘false alarm’

Ger­many can me­di­ate with Moscow over Syria, its for­eign min­is­ter says

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By CHINA DAILY

A false alarm set off Syr­ian air de­fense sys­tems early on Tues­day, the mil­i­tary said, deny­ing ear­lier re­ports of an “out­side ag­gres­sion” and in­com­ing airstrikes.

Syr­ian state me­dia re­ported hours ear­lier that the coun­try con­fronted yet an­other as­sault, shoot­ing down mis­siles over the cen­tral re­gion of Homs and a sub­urb of Da­m­as­cus be­fore dawn.

The re­ports did not say who car­ried out the al­leged strikes, adding to Mid­dle East jit­ters only days af­ter the United States, Britain and France con­ducted airstrikes tar­get­ing Syria’s al­leged chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties in re­tal­i­a­tion for a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack that the West blamed on the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment.

Syria has de­nied such claims.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had said more West­ern at­tacks on Syria would bring chaos to world af­fairs, and Wash­ing­ton pre­pared to in­crease pres­sure on Rus­sia with new eco­nomic sanc­tions.

Moscow also con­demned the West for re­fus­ing to wait for the find­ings of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons in­spec­tion team on the al­leged at­tack be­fore launch­ing the strikes.

Ear­lier this month, four Ira­nian mil­i­tary per­son­nel were killed in an airstrike on Syria’s T4 air base, also in Homs. Syria blamed Is­rael for that at­tack. Is­rael did not con­firm or deny mount­ing the raid.

The re­port came as ex­perts from the in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog were in Da­m­as­cus, wait­ing to visit the site of the sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack in the town of Douma, just east of Da­m­as­cus.

Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice were ready to help pro­tect the OPCW ex­perts on their visit to Douma, said Ma­jor Gen­eral Yuri Yev­tushenko of the Rus­sian mil­i­tary’s Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Cen­ter in Syria. Igor Kir­illov, a Rus­sian chem­i­cal weapons pro­tec­tion ex­pert in The Hague, said the team was set to visit the site on Wed­nes­day.

On Tues­day, Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas said Ber­lin has a spe­cial in­ter­me­di­ary role al­low­ing it to keep open the win­dow for di­a­logue with Moscow on the Syr­ian cri­sis.

Maas said the stalled Syr­ian peace process would be dis­cussed at the week­end’s Toronto meet­ing of G7 for­eign min­is­ters.

“We have to use this mo­ment to get the po­lit­i­cal process go­ing again,” he said of the meet­ing, where Rus­sia will not be present. “We also need Rus­sia for this di­a­logue,” he added, sug­gest­ing Ger­many’s tra­di­tion­ally closer re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia could help fa­cil­i­tate this.

In Lon­don on Mon­day, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May faced crit­i­cism over her de­ci­sion to by­pass Par­lia­ment and take part in the airstrikes against Syria.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 mis­siles tar­get­ing what the Pen­tagon said were three chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties in Syria in re­tal­i­a­tion for the sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack in Douma on April 7.

In Wash­ing­ton, the White House scram­bled on Mon­day to walk back UN Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley’s an­nounce­ment that new eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia are im­mi­nent, but stressed the penal­ties are still be­ing con­sid­ered.

Ha­ley cre­ated a firestorm on Sun­day when she said the new sanc­tions would be im­posed by the Trea­sury Depart­ment on Mon­day, when, in fact, no such an­nounce­ment was planned, ac­cord­ing to two of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

AP, Xin­hua and Reuters con­trib­uted to this story.

TOLGA AK­MEN / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE JAPAN

Pro­test­ers carry plac­ards as they demon­strate against the UK’s mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in Syria, out­side the Houses of Par­lia­ment in cen­tral Lon­don on Mon­day.

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