Eli Ridder | The Avro Post
Russia urged the United States on Tuesday to avoid military force in response to the alleged chemical attack in Douma that several U.S. allies blame the Syrian government for, amid heightened speculation that the coalition may strike.
Western leaders have agreed to work together to target the perpetrators behind the unconfirmed chlorine strike that hit a then-rebel enclave last Saturday, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying any strikes would target chemical facilities.
“I would once against beseech you to refrain from the plans that you’re currently developing,” Russian envoy to the United States Vasily Nebenzia said, warning Washington that it will “bear responsibility” for any “illegal military adventure”.
The warning came as reports emerged that U.S.-led coalition warplanes had been spotted near Syria in Iraq and Jordan.
M. Nebenzia spoke during an emergency meeting of the U.S. Security Council where a U.S. proposal to open a new investigation into the purported strike was vetoed by Russia and China abstained.
A counter-proposal by the Russian envoy also failed to pass, however, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, is sending a team set to arrive in Syria “shortly” to determine whether banned weapons were used.
OPCW investigators will not be looking to track the source of any violations, and thus there is a space for a secondary probe.
Syrian government forces were put on “high alert” on Tuesday for the following 72 hours in response to the suspected incoming attack by U.S. and allied forces.
Eurocontrol warned airlines to exercise caution in the Eastern Mediterranean due to possible launch of air strikes into Syria in next 72 hours, Reuters news agency reported.
The head of the Duma defense committee in Russia has said that his country would take all measures, including military options, in response to a U.S. strike on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled his first official trip to Latin America on Tuesday to focus on the U.S. response to the alleged Syrian chemical attack in Douma.
Mr. Trump will remain in Washington to “oversee the American response to Syria”, the White House said, with Vice President Mike Pence going in his place to Peru for a major summit and then on to Colombia.
Syria and ally Russia have denied any involvement in Saturday’s attack that reportedly hospitalized hundreds and invited the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the former rebel enclave in Eastern Ghouta.
The chemical weapons monitor agreed later on Tuesday to send investigators to Douma, reportedly lessening the chance of a strike from Western countries.
Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron vowed a “firm” response late on Monday, and the U.S. president has spoken of numerous military options.
Washington, Paris and the United Kingdom have been in contact over a potential multi-lateral Western military response to the chemical attack.
France says poison gas was deliberately utilized in Douma, but the United Nations has not verified the strikes at this point as the area is blocked off.
An attack on an airbase near Homs in the early hours of Monday attributed by Moscow and Damascus to Israel was apparently in retaliation, but Tel Aviv has not confirmed the strikes, as per their policy.
The U.S., U.K. and France denied involvement in the Homs attack.
More details to follow. Image of the United Nations Security Council from Reuters.