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Russia's Putin predicts global 'chaos' if West hits Syria again

From Reuters - April 15, 2018

MOSCOW/DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, while signs emerged that Moscow and Washington want to pull back from the worst crisis in their relations for years.

Putin made his remarks in a telephone conversation with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani after the United States, France and Britain launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday over a suspected poison gas attack.

A Kremlin statement said Putin and Rouhani agreed that the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the multi-sided, seven-year conflict that has killed at least half a million people.

Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the U.N. Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations, a Kremlin statement said.

The attacks struck at the heart of Syrias chemical weapons program, Washington said, in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack a week ago. All three participants insistedthe strikes were not aimed at toppling President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the conflict.

The bombings, hailed by U.S. President Donald Trump as a success but denounced by Damascus and its allies as an act of aggression, marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and ally Russia, whose foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called them unacceptable and lawless.

Putins comments were published shortly after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov struck a more conciliatory note by saying Moscow would make every effort to improve political relations with the West.

When asked whether Russia was prepared to work with the proposals of Western countries at the United Nations, Ryabkov told TASS news agency:Now the political situation is extremely tense, the atmosphere is extremely electrified, so I will not make any predictions.

We will work calmly, methodically and professionally, using all opportunities to remove the situation from its current extremely dangerous political peak.

Russian Foreign Ministry official Vladimir Ermakov said Washington would want to maintain a dialogue with Moscow about strategic stability after the raids, Russian media reported.

In the U.S. administration there are specific people who it is possible to talk with, said Ermakov, head of the ministrys department for non-proliferation and arms control.

In Damascus, Syrias deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad,met inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW for about three hours in the presence of Russian officers and asenior Syrian security official.

The inspectors were due to attempt to visit the site of the suspected gas attack in Douma on April 7, which medical relief organizations say killed dozens of people. Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for OPCWs findings before attacking.

HYSTERIA

Mekdad declined to comment to reporters waiting outside the hotel where the meeting took place.

Russia denounced allegations of a gas attack in Douma and said it was staged by Britain to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

In an indication that the West, too, would prefer to lower tensions, the United States and Britain both reiterated that their military action on Saturday was not aimed at Assad, Putins ally, only at his use of chemical weapons.

Speaking to the BBC, Britains Foreign Secretary (Minister)Boris Johnson said that Western powers had no plans for further missile strikes, though they would assess their options if Damascus used chemical weapons again.

This is not about regime change ... This is not about trying to turn the tide of the conflict in Syria, he told the BBC, adding that Russia was the only country able to pressure Assad to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Asked about U.S.-Russia relations, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said ties were very strained but that the United States still hoped for a better relationship.

Haley said that the United States would not pull its troops out of Syria until its goals were accomplished. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Haley listed three aims for the United States: ensuring that chemical weapons are not used in any way that poses a risk to U.S. interests, that Islamic State is defeated and that there is a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

RESILIENCE

RED LINE BREACHED?

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