Turkey welcomes US Syria strike, calls it ‘positive’ but not enough

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday hailed an attack by the United States on a Syrian air base as a positive development but said it was not enough on its own and “serious steps” were needed to protect the Syrian people.

The United States fired cruise missiles earlier on Friday at a Syrian base from which President Donald Trump said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched, marking the first direct US assault on the government of Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war.

“We find it a positive and concrete step taken against the war crimes of the Assad regime. Is it enough? I don’t find it enough. It is time to take serious steps for the protection of innocent Syrian people,” Erdogan told a rally in the southern province of Hatay.

“The international community has the capability to stop the regime and terrorist organizations. I hope the active stance that the United States displayed in Idlib is a beginning with regards to such developments,” Erdogan said.

Britain’s defence minister said the strike was designed to deter Bashar al-Assad from carrying out any further chemical weapons attacks but was not the start of a new military campaign.

When asked if the strike was the start of a new military campaign, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “We don’t see last night’s strike like that.”

“This strike was very limited to one airfield, it was entirely appropriate, it’s designed to deter the regime from carrying out further chemical weapons attacks,” Fallon told ITV television. “So we don’t see it as the start of a different military campaign.”

“We’ve not been asked to be involved in this, this was not a matter for the coalition that’s in Syria and Iraq fighting Daesh,” Fallon said. “This was a United States operation, but let me emphasize again we fully support it.”

The United States informed France before its missile strikes on Syrian military positions, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday.

“I was told by (US Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson during the night,” Ayrault told Reuters and France Info radio in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, where he was on a diplomatic visit.

Ayrault called the escalation of the US military role in Syria, in which two US warships fired dozens of cruise missiles at an Assad-controlled airbase, “a warning” to “a criminal regime”.

“Use of chemical weapons is appalling and should be punished because it is a war crime,” Ayrault said, adding that Russia and Iran needed to understand that supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made no sense, and that France was not seeking a confrontation with those two countries.

Ayrault added that France’s only role in Syria at present was its part in the coalition fighting ISIS.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters: “Many innocent people became victims from the chemical attacks. The international community was shocked by the tragedy that left many young children among the victims.

“Japan supports the US government’s determination to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the strikes sent “a vitally important message” that the world would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

“The retribution has been proportionate and it has been swift,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We support the United States in that swift action.”

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