MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem on Thursday, which will focus on minimizing the aftermath of the US missile strike against the al-Shayrat airbase.
"During the talks, the two ministers will discuss the situation in Syria, which was attacked and continues to be attacked by terrorists. An armed aggression by the US was added to this," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "They will also consider the possible joint steps to minimize the negative effects of this gross violation of international law for international and regional peace and security."
The meeting between Lavrov and Muallem will be held one day before the trilateral talks of the Russian, Syrian and Iranian top diplomats. According to Zakharova, coordinating efforts to prevent further deterioration of the situation in that Arab country "amid the US armed aggression against Damascus" will top its agenda.
Hot on heels of Tillerson’s visit
The Lavrov-Muallem meeting will be held the day after the talks between Russia’s top diplomat and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which focused on the situation in Syria. Washington argues that the strike was a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian air force in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, on April 4. Russia says, however, that, before making accusations and, all the more so, taking any actions on their basis, it is necessary to understand what actually happened. Moscow insists that the incident should be investigated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the ground.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, earlier told TASS that Russia supports Damascus’ request filed with the OPCW to dispatch an international group with balanced staff to Syria whose conclusions could be trusted. "Damascus showed utmost openness and willingness to cooperate," he said. "We fully support this request and believe it is the only way to make progress. However, we cannot see readiness by our Western partners to take advantage of Damascus’ constructive stance."
The talks between Lavrov and Muallem were preceded by a debate in the UN Security Council on the revised version of the resolution on the Khan Sheikhoun incident proposed by the UK, the US and France. The document’s co-authors retained the requirement to Damascus to hand over all information on flights on the day of the incident to the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and provide access to the military bases from which strikes against Khan Sheikhoun could be carried out. The document also contained a paragraph threatening Syria with measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (regarding the imposition of sanctions and the use of military force) in the event of the use of chemical weapons. Russia vetoed that draft resolution.
The UN Security Council also discussed further ways of resolving the Syrian crisis, including the prospects for the Astana and Geneva talks, which were jeopardized as well. Cooperation between Moscow and Damascus at the UN Security Council and the prospects for the negotiation process in light of new developments are expected to be discussed during the Lavrov-Muallem meeting too.
US strike and its effects
The US military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a military airfield in Syria’s Homs province on April 7 on orders issued by US President Donald Trump. Washington said the strike came in response to what it claims was Damascus’ use of chemical weapons in the Idlib province. However, according the Russian Defense Ministry, on April 4, the Syrian air force delivered an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun to destroy militant facilities used to produce chemical bombs. These bombs were sent to Iraq and were also used in Aleppo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he considers the US strike on the military base in the Homs province a violation of international law. The Russian Foreign Ministry described it as an aggression against a sovereign nation. It noted that Washington’s actions do not contribute to the fight against terrororist groups but, rather, play into their hands. The Russian Defense Ministry earlier reported that the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (terror groups, both outlawed in Russia - TASS) tried to launch an offensive on the positions of Syrian troops. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the overall military and political situation in Syria has deteriorated dramatically after the strike.