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Lavrov: US Strike on Syria Aimed at Destroying Settlement, Changing Regime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian FM Sergei Lavrov speaks to the media after talks in Moscow with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson. (AP)

Moscow – Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime accused on Friday the United States of seeking to “destroy the political settlement in the Syrian crisis” in wake of its strike on a Syrian airbase last week.

Meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem criticized the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and its mechanisms in investigating the April 4 chemical attack against Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun.

Lavrov expressed skepticism about a preliminary investigation conducted by the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog. He alleged that its experts failed to visit the site.

Moscow has warned against putting the blame on Damascus until an independent inquiry is conducted and vetoed a proposed UN resolution on the attack, saying it failed to mention the need to inspect the affected area.

In Russia’s view, the probe conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be widened to include experts from many nations, he said.

“If our US colleagues and some European nations believe that their version is right, they have no reason to fear the creation of such an independent group,” Lavrov added. “The investigation into this high-profile incident must be transparent and leave no doubt that someone is trying to hide something.”

Lavrov denounced after talks with Zarif and Muallem the US missile strikes on Syria as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Additional such actions would entail “grave consequences not only for regional but global security,” he said.

Washington carried out strikes against Syria’s Shayrat airbase on April 7 in response to the Khan Sheikhoun attack.

The three officials also declared that there can be no alternative to the “political-diplomatic settlement of the Syrian crisis, which can be achieved through Syrian-Syrian dialogue.”

Lavrov said the US strike on the Syrian base has undermined peace efforts in Syria and reflected Washington’s focus on ousting the Syrian regime.

“Such attempts won’t succeed,” he said.

For his part, Muallem said that Syria has repeatedly declared that it does not possess chemical weapons, claiming that regime forces have not used them against “neither the terrorist nor the people.”

He deemed the Khan Sheikoun incident as a “fabrication”, saying that that is why Syria has demanded the formation of an unbiased international investigation committee to visit the town and the Shayrat airbase.

He said that the US fears the formation of such a committee and that it is seeking to exploit the attack in order to garner western support for its stance on Syria.

The three ministers also discussed the beefing up of US forces on Jordan’s border with Syria, Muallem said. He added that Russia, Iran and Syria have “common procedures against any aggression,” but wouldn’t offer specifics.

Lavrov said Moscow has asked Washington about the purpose of the buildup and received assurances that the US troops were deployed there to cut supply lines between the ISIS group factions in Syria and Iraq.

“We will keep monitoring the issue, since the only possible reason for using military force on the territory of Syria is to fight terrorism,” Lavrov said.

Zarif meanwhile reiterated his counterparts’ statements and condemned the US strike, adding: “Unilateral actions are no longer acceptable.”

He underlined the need to resume the political process “without preconditions that usurp the right of the Syrian people in determining their fate.”

The US accuses the Syrian regime of deliberately launching the deadly chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. Russia has alleged that the victims were killed by toxic agents from a rebel chemical arsenal hit by Syrian war planes.