Moscow, Tehran, Damascus seek on-site probe into Syria gassing

Posted April 16, 2017

Russia will insist not only at the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW), but also at the United Nations on urgent sending of inspectors for investigation into the incident with alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday after a meeting with Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani.

"If they are serious in fighting terrorists, we're going to be partners, and I said not only the United States", Assad said.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the meeting sent a "strong message" to Washington. "We condemn any use of chemical weapons", said the Syrian top diplomat.

While Lavrov, who met with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts Friday, called for an "independent investigation", Russian Federation vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday that demanded the Syrian government cooperate with an inquiry into the suspected sarin-gas attack that killed dozens of people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government troops and allied forces have already entered Madaya, one of the opposition-held towns evacuated of rebels. "Such acts of aggression are obviously meant to derail the peace process, which was endorsed in a unanimously adopted resolution of the U.N. Security Council and implies that the fate of Syria would be decided only by the Syrian people", he said.

The Khan Sheikhoun incident prompted the first direct USA military action against Assad's government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson received a frosty reception Wednesday on a visit to Moscow, where he said there was "a low level of trust" between the countries.

Lavrov said the US missile strike on Syria was Washington seeking "excuses for regime change".

The U.S. accuses the Syrian government of deliberately launching the deadly chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4.

Since starting with mass protests in March 2011, Syria's conflict has spiraled into a devastating civil war that has killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions from their homes. And U.S. analysts say the timeline and strike location suggested by Russian Federation don't match reports from the ground or satellite imagery. "If he doesn't, then we're going to have to think about what our options are - one of them may be bringing a privileged resolution to withdraw U.S. military forces by a given date from Syria".

The coalition said Thursday its air strikes had accidentally killed 18 members of the Syrian alliance south of Tabqa, a strategically important town on the Euphrates River near Raqa.