Putin pre­dicts global ‘chaos’ if West hits Syria again

Putin and Rouhani agreed that the West­ern strikes had dam­aged the chances of achiev­ing a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion


RUS­SIAN Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin warned on Sun­day that fur­ther West­ern at­tacks on Syria would bring chaos to world af­fairs, while signs emerged that Moscow and Wash­ing­ton want to pull back from the worst cri­sis in their re­la­tions for years.

Putin made his re­marks in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Ira­nian coun­ter­part Has­san Rouhani af­ter the United States, France and Britain launched mis­sile strikes on Syria on Satur­day over a sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack.

A Krem­lin state­ment said Putin and Rouhani agreed that the West­ern strikes had dam­aged the chances of achiev­ing a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion in the multi-sided, seven-year con­flict that has killed at least half a mil­lion peo­ple.

“Vladimir Putin, in par­tic­u­lar, stressed that if such ac­tions com­mit­ted in vi­o­la­tion of the UN Char­ter con­tinue, then it will in­evitably lead to chaos in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions,” a Krem­lin state­ment said.

The at­tacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram, Wash­ing­ton said, in re­tal­i­a­tion for a sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack a week ago. All three par­tic­i­pants in­sisted the strikes were not aimed at top­pling Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad or in­ter­ven­ing in the con­flict.

The bomb­ings, hailed by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as a suc­cess but de­nounced by Da­m­as­cus and its al­lies as an act of ag­gres­sion, marked the big­gest in­ter­ven­tion by West­ern coun­tries against As­sad and ally Rus­sia, whose for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov called them “un­ac­cept­able and law­less”.

Putin’s com­ments were pub­lished shortly af­ter Rus­sian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov struck a more con­cil­ia­tory note by say­ing Moscow would make ev­ery ef­fort to im­prove po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions with the West.

When asked whether Rus­sia was pre­pared to work with the pro­pos­als of West­ern coun­tries at the United Na­tions, Ryabkov told TASS news agency: “Now the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is ex­tremely tense, the at­mos­phere is ex­tremely elec­tri­fied, so I will not make any pre­dic­tions.

“We will work calmly, me­thod­i­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally, us­ing all op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­move the sit­u­a­tion from its cur­rent ex­tremely dan­ger­ous po­lit­i­cal peak.”

Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial Vladimir Er­makov said Wash­ing­ton would want to main­tain a di­a­logue with Moscow about strate­gic sta­bil­ity af­ter the raids, Rus­sian me­dia re­ported.

“In the US ad­min­is­tra­tion there are spe­cific peo­ple who it is pos­si­ble to talk with,” said Er­makov, head of the min­istry’s de­part­ment for non-pro­lif­er­a­tion and arms con­trol.

In Da­m­as­cus, Syria’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter, Faisal Mek­dad, met in­spec­tors from the global chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog OPCW for about three hours in the pres­ence of Rus­sian of­fi­cers and a se­nior Syr­ian se­cu­rity of­fi­cial.

The in­spec­tors were due to at­tempt to visit the site of the sus­pected gas at­tack in Douma on April 7, which med­i­cal re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tions say killed dozens of peo­ple. Moscow con­demned the West­ern states for re­fus­ing to wait for OPCW’s find­ings be­fore at­tack­ing.


Mek­dad de­clined to com­ment to re­porters wait­ing out­side the ho­tel where the meet­ing took place.

Rus­sia de­nounced al­le­ga­tions of a gas at­tack in Douma and said it was staged by Britain to whip up anti-Rus­sian hys­te­ria.

In an in­di­ca­tion that the West, too, would pre­fer to lower ten­sions, the United States and Britain both re­it­er­ated that their mil­i­tary ac­tion on Satur­day was not aimed at As­sad, Putin’s ally, only at his use of chem­i­cal weapons.

Speak­ing to the BBC, Britain’s For­eign Sec­re­tary (Min­is­ter) Boris John­son said that West­ern pow­ers had no plans for fur­ther mis­sile strikes, though they would as­sess their op­tions if Da­m­as­cus used chem­i­cal weapons again.

“This is not about regime change ... This is not about try­ing to turn the tide of the con­flict in Syria,” he told the BBC, adding that Rus­sia was the only coun­try able to pres­sure As­sad to ne­go­ti­ate an end to the con­flict.

Asked about US-Rus­sia re­la­tions, US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley said ties were “very strained” but that the United States still hoped for a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship.

Ha­ley said that the United States would not pull its troops out of Syria un­til its goals were ac­com­plished. Speak­ing on Fox News Sun­day, Ha­ley listed three aims for the United States: en­sur­ing that chem­i­cal weapons are not used in any way that poses a risk to US in­ter­ests, that Is­lamic State is de­feated and that there is a good van­tage point to watch what Iran is do­ing.

Trump has made clear he wants to with­draw the roughly 2,000 US troops in­volved in the anti-Is­lamic State cam­paign in Syria. But he ap­peared to con­tra­dict that mes­sage when he said on Satur­day that West­ern al­lies were pre­pared to “sus­tain” the mil­i­tary re­sponse if As­sad does not stop us­ing pro­hib­ited chem­i­cal weapons.

Bri­tish op­po­si­tion leader Jeremy Cor­byn said the le­gal ba­sis used to sup­port the Bri­tish role was de­bat­able, adding that he would only sup­port ac­tion backed by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. “I say to the for­eign sec­re­tary, I say to the prime min­is­ter, where is the le­gal ba­sis for this?” Cor­byn said in an in­ter­view.


In Da­m­as­cus, As­sad told a group of vis­it­ing Rus­sian law­mak­ers that the West­ern mis­sile strikes were an act of ag­gres­sion, Rus­sian news agen­cies re­ported.

Syria re­leased video of the wreck­age of a bombed­out re­search lab, but also of As­sad ar­riv­ing at work as usual, with the cap­tion “morn­ing of re­silience” and there were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of ca­su­al­ties.

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