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The Latest: Germany hopes for new peace push after strikes

April 15, 2018
Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):

11:40 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister hopes the U.S.-led air strikes in Syria will result in a fresh effort to find a peaceful solution to the seven-year conflict.

Heiko Maas told public broadcaster ARD the military attack by Western nations against Bashar Assad's forces "should make clear to all parties that we don't just have the opportunity but the necessity to take up the political process again."

Maas says he hopes a "window for dialogue" has opened with Moscow — Syria's ally — now that the Russian elections have passed.

He says European Union foreign ministers will meet Monday to discuss the situation and put forward proposals for steps going forward.

Germany didn't join the United States, Britain and France in the strikes, though Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the attack "necessary and appropriate."

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10:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says France wants to launch a diplomatic initiative over Syria that would include Western powers, Russia and Turkey.

Macron, speaking on French television BFM and online site Mediapart, said "we are preparing a political solution" aiming at allowing a political solution for Syria.

He stressed the French diplomacy is able to talk with Iran, Russia and Turkey on one side, and the United States on the other side.

He said "ten days ago President Trump wanted to withdraw from Syria. We convinced him to remain."

The U.S., France and the U.K. launched the airstrikes early Saturday on three chemical weapons facilities in Syria to punish the regime for alleged use of chemical weapons in the town of Douma on April 7.

Macron added that the Russians are "accomplices" of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime because they blocked the U.N. Security Council.

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10:45 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says the joint military strikes by the U.S., France and Britain against Syrian targets were carried out in retaliation after the allies obtained evidence that the government of Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons against its own people.

"It was retaliation, not an act of war," Macron said in a live interview on French TV channel BMF and online investigative site Mediapart.

Macron said the allies had "full international legitimacy to intervene" in Syria because the strikes were about enforcing international humanitarian law.

The French leader said the allies were forced to act without an explicit U.N. mandate because of the "constant stalemate of the Russians" in the Security Council.

Macron said, "We had arrived at a time when these strikes had become indispensable."

"The regime of Bashar Assad has an enemy who is his people," Macron said.

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10:25 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says airstrikes launched in Syria by the U.S., France and the U.K. were a success.

Macron said "the operation we decided (on) has been perfectly conducted" on French television BFM and online site Mediapart.

He said all missiles struck their targets.

The Syrian regime and the Russians "claim they have no victims on their side," he said.

"That's exactly what we wanted to do," he added.

The U.S., France and the U.K. launched the airstrikes early Saturday on three chemical weapons facilities in Syria to punish the regime for alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the country.

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10:15 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister hopes the U.S.-led air strikes in Syria will result in a fresh effort to find a peaceful solution to the seven-year conflict.

Heiko Maas told public broadcaster ARD that the military attack by western nations against Bashar Assad's forces "should make clear to all parties that we don't just have the opportunity but the necessity to take up the political process again."

Maas says he hopes a "window for dialogue" has opened with Moscow — Syria's ally — now that the Russian elections are over.

Germany didn't join the United States, Britain and France in the strikes, though Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack "necessary and appropriate."

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9:45 p.m.

Pro-Russian Czech President Milos Zeman has condemned the allied airstrikes in Syria.

In a radio interview Sunday, Zeman said a military action against any state can only be carried out after approval from the U.N. Security Council. He said attacks against Islamic militants should be the only exception.

Zeman also said the strikes were a mistake because they came at a time when refugees were returning to the war-ravaged country.

The president also criticized acting Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis' positive response to the strikes. Babis said Saturday that they were "inevitable" because the regime of President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons to attack civilians. After meeting Zeman on Sunday, Babis backtracked, saying the strikes don't solve anything.

In the Czech Republic, the government is in charge of the foreign policy, not the president.

6:50 p.m.

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader says the Western strikes against Syria following alleged use of chemical weapons will likely complicate prospects of a political solution and have failed to achieve any of their results.

Speaking by video link at a rally of his supporters on Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah says the U.S.-ordered strikes have strained international relations and could totally "torpedo" the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva. He says the strikes were "limited" and were recognition of the strength of the "resistance axis." The term is in reference to the alliance between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group, founded originally to fight Israel's occupation of Lebanese territories, has sent hundreds of fighters to back the troops of President Bashar Assad in the war, now in its eighth year.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his British and French allies say the airstrikes were necessary to deter Syria's use of chemical weapons. Syria and Russia deny any chemical weapons were used and insist the Western powers had no evidence.

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6:20 p.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says the U.S. will be imposing more economic sanctions on Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his apparent use of chemical weapons.

Haley says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be making the announcement by Monday and it will affect companies that are "dealing with equipment related to Assad and any chemical weapons use."

She tells CBS' "Face the Nation" that Russia needs to feel the consequences for protecting the Assad regime. Haley notes that Russia has vetoed six resolutions in the United Nations Security Council regarding chemical weapons.

Haley says the fact that Assad was making the use of chemical weapons "more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop."

Syrian opposition activists and first responders say a chemical attack on the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital, killed more than 40 people on April 7.

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6:15 p.m.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani have held a telephone conversation to discuss Syrian conditions in the wake of a joint missile airstrike by the U.S., U.K. and France on the country.

The leaders "agreed that this illegal action is adversely impacting prospects for political settlement in Syria," a statement by the Kremlin said Sunday.

Putin stressed that if such actions in violation of the UN Charter continue, "it will inevitably entail chaos in international relations," according to the statement.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying "The U.S. and some western countries do not want Syria to reach permanent stability."

Rouhani said both Iran and Russia should not allow "fire of a new tension" to flare up in the region, adding that Saturday's airstrikes on Syria were an "invasion" and aimed at "emboldening defeated terrorists," according to the report.

Both Iran and Russia are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad whose forces have been accused of carrying out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus a week ago that prompted the missile attack by the Western powers.

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5:50 p.m.

Serbia, Russia's key ally in Europe, says it won't take sides in the Syrian crisis following the U.S.-led attacks on Syrian chemical weapons sites.

President Aleksandar Vucic said in a statement Sunday that Serbia generally condemns the use of chemical weapons, but "won't get involved in big powers' relations."

The statement says Vucic met with U.S. ambassador in Serbia Kyle Scott over the situation in Syria.

While formally seeking European Union membership, Serbia has kept strong political and military ties with traditional ally Russia. Anti-Western sentiments remain high, stemming from the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia that stopped the war in Kosovo.

Vucic says that "Serbia jealously guards and protects its military neutrality." He adds "our country wants to talk to everyone and have a partner and friendly relationship (with everyone.)" ___

5:25 p.m.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is making clear the United States won't be pulling troops out of Syria right away.

Haley spoke after President Donald Trump in a tweet Sunday defended his use of the term "Mission accomplished" to describe U.S.-led strikes in Syria. She says U.S. involvement in Syria "is not done."

Haley says the three U.S. goals for accomplishing its mission are making sure chemical weapons are not used in a way that could harm U.S. national interests; that the Islamic state is defeated; and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

She tells "Fox News Sunday": "We're not going to leave until we know we've accomplished those things."

Haley reiterates that if Syrian President Bashar Assad uses poison gas again, "the United States is locked and loaded."

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3:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is defending his use of the phrase "mission accomplished" to refer to the U.S.-led strikes in Syria.

Trump tweets on Sunday that the mission was "so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term 'Mission Accomplished.'"

He adds: "I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!"

Trump's use of the phrase Saturday had evoked comparisons with President George W. Bush, who in 2003 stood under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished" as he declared that major combat operations had ended in Iraq six weeks after the invasion. But the war dragged on for years.

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3:15 p.m.

Iran has condemned the Western strikes on Syria, saying no country has a right to take punitive measures against another "beyond international procedures."

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that Iran had warned about the possibility that "terrorist groups" were behind the alleged chemical attack that triggered the strikes. It said he communicated his concerns in a phone call Sunday with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been accused of carrying out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus a week ago that opposition activists and rescuers say killed more than 40 people. The attack prompted the U.S., Britain and France to carry out a missile attack on Syrian military targets early Saturday.

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3:10 p.m.

Syria's President Bashar Assad says the Western airstrikes against his country were accompanied by a campaign of "lies" and misinformation in the U.N. Security Council.

Assad spoke Sunday to a group of visiting Russian politicians. His comments were carried by state media.

Assad and Russia deny using chemical weapons, the trigger for the strikes early Saturday. An alleged gas attack last weekend in the town of Douma killed more than 40 people, according to opposition activists and rescuers.

Assad told his visitors that the U.S., Britain and France, which carried out the strikes, had waged a campaign of "lies and misinformation" against Russia and Syria.

The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed in dealing with the seven-year Syrian conflict and the use of chemical weapons. Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, is a close ally of Assad.

 
 
 

 

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