Merkel, Hollande say Assad to blame for airstrikes
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande laid the blame for the U.S. military attack on Syria at the door of President Bashar al-Assadas the U.K. said it “fully supports” the overnight strike.
Merkel and Hollande held a phone call on Friday morning to discuss the missile strikes on Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, according to a statement distributed by the Federal Chancellery in Berlin and the Elysee Palace in Paris.
The German and French leaders pointed to the killing of scores of civilians with poison gas this week in a rebel-held enclave in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, an assault for which the U.S. and its allies have blamed Assad, backing Trump’s justification that the deployment of chemical weapons is “an affront to humanity.”
“President Assad alone bears responsibility for this development,” Merkel and Hollande said. “His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned.”
The response from the two top leaders in the European Union clashed with that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s patron, who condemned the Tomahawk cruise-missile strike as “act of aggression against a sovereign state” that will cause “considerable damage” to U.S.-Russian relations.
U.K. Defense Minister Michael Fallon, who said the U.S. and U.K. governments had held “close discussions” on Syria in recent days, urged Russia to use its influence over Assad to stop violence against civilians.
“I hope Russia will learn from what happened last night and use its influence against Assad to bring this slaughter to a stop,” Fallon told BBC radio on Friday.
Merkel and Hollande called for progress in United Nations-led efforts to bring about a political transition in Syria, criticizing failed efforts in the UN Security Council to hold Assad accountable for chemical-weapons attacks.
“As understandable as a U.S. military strike against military structures is after the failure of the Security Council, it’s just as crucial to look at joint peace efforts in the framework of the UN,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement while on a trip to Mali with his French counterpart.
—With assistance from Alex Morales
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