Tur­key says strikes on As­sad ‘well-de­served,’ me­di­ates to lessen ten­sion be­tween US, Rus­sia

Ankara de­scribed the airstrikes against As­sad regime tar­gets by the U.S., U.K. and France as well-de­served, but im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward con­tacted its al­lies and Rus­sia to me­di­ate a de-es­ca­la­tion be­tween all sides

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

THE U.S. LED airstrikes on Bashar As­sad’s mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties in Syria, be­lieved to be used for chem­i­cal at­tacks, were pos­i­tive steps taken against the use of chem­i­cal weapons, Ankara has said, while urg­ing the de-es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Moscow. On Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan held sev­eral phone calls with the lead­ers of France, the U.K. and Rus­sia, con­tin­u­ing the diplo­matic ef­forts Ankara has been ex­ert­ing to calm ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia. Pres­i­den­tial sources said dur­ing the calls, Er­doğan re­it­er­ated Tur­key’s po­si­tion on the use of chem­i­cal weapons, con­demn­ing the at­tacks, as well as the use of con­ven­tional weapons, and high­light­ing the need for an im­me­di­ate po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion. The U.S., the U.K. and France hit Syria with airstrikes early on Satur­day in re­sponse to a chemi- cal at­tack that killed more than 70 civil­ians last week in East­ern Ghouta and Douma by the As­sad regime, in the big­gest in­ter­ven­tion by West­ern pow­ers against the regime. Er­doğan high­lighted the im­por­tance of work­ing to­gether with France and Rus­sia to re­solve the Syr­ian cri­sis and the im­por­tance of not es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions in Syria, pres­i­den­tial sources said, re­fer­ring to Er­doğan’s phone con­ver­sa­tion with Em­manuel Macron and Vladimir Putin.

FRENCH Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron shared in­for­ma­tion with Er­doğan about the airstrikes on Syria. The Turk­ish pres­i­dent un­der­lined that the As­sad regime’s at­tacks with both chem­i­cal and con­ven­tional weapons should end, while stress­ing that a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion is nec­es­sary to bring peace in the coun­try.

In their phone con­ver­sa­tion, Er­doğan and Putin re­solved to con­tinue joint ef­forts to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian cri­sis and agreed to stay in close con­tact on bi­lat­eral and re­gional is­sues. Ear­lier, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent also spoke with Bri­tish Premier Theresa May.

Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yıldırım said yes­ter­day that Tur­key sup­ports the airstrikes; how­ever, the move was a be­lated ac­tion. Speak­ing at the Sixth Or­di­nary Congress of the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) in Is­tan­bul’s

Tu­zla dis­trict, Yıldırım said: “It is a late re­sponse to the regime and vile mur­der­ers, who caused the atroc­ity in the re­gion.”

Ankara has un­der­lined that both the U.S. and Rus­sia fol­low in­cor­rect strate­gies in Syria, as Wash­ing­ton sup­ports the PKK’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) in the fight against Daesh and Moscow sup­ports Bashar As­sad, whose regime has killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of its peo­ple.

Regime forces are strongly sup­ported by the Rus­sian mil­i­tary as well as forces loyal to Iran. Af­ter the at­tacks, the Krem­lin is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing the airstrikes, say­ing, “The cur­rent es­ca­la­tion around Syria is de­struc­tive for the en­tire

sys­tem of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.” The state­ment added: “His­tory will set things right, and Wash­ing­ton al­ready bears the heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bloody out­rage in Yu­goslavia, Iraq and Libya.” Rus­sia had also urged the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC) to con­demn the at­tacks; how­ever, the mo­tion was re­jected.

Ira­nian Supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Seyed Ali Khamenei sent a tweet on Satur­day, con­demn­ing the air strikes. “This morn­ing’s at­tack on #Syria is a crime. I firmly de­clare that the Pres­i­dents of U.S. and France and Bri­tish PM com­mit­ted a ma­jor crime. They will gain no ben­e­fit; just as they did not while in Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan, over the past years, com­mit­ting the same crim­i­nal acts,” he tweeted.

Sup­port­ing the As­sad regime since the early stages of the nearly 8-year-old Syr­ian war, de­spite the regime’s bru­tal­ity on civil­ians, Iran has been blamed of at­tempt­ing to in­crease its in­flu­ence in the re­gion, in­clud­ing in the con­flicts in Syria and Ye­men, due to re­li­gious and sec­tar­ian mo­ti­va­tions.

The UNSC unan­i­mously adopted a res­o­lu­tion on Feb. 24, call­ing for a month­long cease­fire in Syria, in­clud­ing East­ern Ghouta, to al­low the de­liv­ery of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. De­spite the res­o­lu­tion, the regime and its al­lies ear­lier this month launched a ma­jor ground of­fen­sive backed by Rus­sian air power to cap­ture op­po­si­tion-held parts of East­ern Ghouta.

Tur­key is not tak­ing sides be­tween Rus­sia and the U.S., For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Satur­day, re­fer­ring to es­ca­lated ten­sions be­tween U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the Krem­lin.

Ahead of strikes, Trump had warned Rus­sia via Twit­ter to brace for U.S. mil­i­tary en­gage­ment in Syria. He tweeted: “Get ready Rus­sia, be­cause they will be com­ing, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be part­ners with a Gas Killing An­i­mal who kills his peo­ple and en­joys it!” Dur­ing the airstrikes on Satur­day, Rus­sian mil­i­tary bases in Syria were not hit, re­ports said. Strikes car­ried out on Syria tar­geted three fa­cil­i­ties as­so­ci­ated

with the gov­ern­ment’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram, U.S. Marine Gen­eral Joseph Dun­ford told re­porters in Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day. The first tar­get was a sci­en­tific re­search cen­ter out­side of Da­m­as­cus and the sec­ond was a chem­i­cal weapons stor­age fa­cil­ity out­side of Homs, he said. The third tar­get was near to the sec­ond and was a chem­i­cal weapons stor­age fa­cil­ity and an im­por­tant com­mand post, he added.

“We are not mak­ing a choice be­tween Rus­sia and Amer­ica. We are also not mak­ing a choice be­tween the [Bashar As­sad] regime and Amer­ica, France and Britain,” Çavuşoğlu told a crowd dur­ing the 5th or­di­nary congress of the rul­ing AK Party in An­talya’s Alanya dis­trict. “Our goal is to bring a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to Syria, bring back peace and guar­an­tee Syria’s sta­bil­ity, bor­der and ter­ri­to­rial unity; we are sin­cere on this is­sue,” he said.

Af­ter the Satur­day’s strikes, act­ing U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Sul­li­van briefed Tur­key’s For­eign Un­der­sec­re­tary Ümit Yalçın over the phone on Sun­day on the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in Syria.

Tur­key was also in­formed of the forth­com­ing strikes, rul­ing AK Party spokesper­son Mahir Ünal said in a tele­vised in­ter­view on CNN Türk on Satur­day, adding that Tur­key was al­ready ex­pect­ing such re­ac­tion fol­low­ing the state­ments com­ing from its al­lies.” We see this at­tack as a sanc­tion against the use of chem­i­cal weapons and a stern warn­ing to As­sad against at­tack­ing his own peo­ple with chem­i­cals,” he added.

Gov­ern­ment spokesman and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Bekir Boz­dağ also said the U.S. did not use İn­cir­lik Air Base lo­cated in south­ern Adana prov­ince in the at­tacks.

In a state­ment re­leased af­ter the at­tacks were car­ried out, the Turk­ish For­eign Min­istry de­scribed the air strikes against As­sad’s bases as an “ap­pro­pri­ate” re­sponse. “Tur­key be­lieves that it is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance that such crimes do not go un­pun­ished and that ac­count­abil­ity is en­sured to pre­vent the re­cur­rence of sim­i­lar crimes,” the state­ment said.

The U.S., France and Britain launched mil­i­tary strikes around the Syr­ian cap­i­tal of Da­m­as­cus.

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer and crew, be­ing de­ployed to launch a strike as part of the multi­na­tional re­sponse to Syria’s use of chem­i­cal weapons, is seen at Al Udeid Air Base, Doha, Qatar, April 14.

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