Airstrikes were ‘false alarm’
Germany can mediate with Moscow over Syria, its foreign minister says
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.
Protesters carry placards as they demonstrate against the UK’s military involvement in Syria, outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on Monday.