As Russia fumes over Syria airstrikes, US prepares further sanctions; Macron in it ‘for the long term’

UPDATE 2 — 3:34 p.m. EDT: The Washington Post is reporting President Trump has held-up additional sanctions on Russia following Nikki Haley’s announcement on Sunday, as the U.N. ambassador did not receive the go-ahead from Trump prior to her appearance on CBS.

According to a White House statement Monday, Trump is “considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future.”

 

UPDATE — 1:47 p.m. EDT: According to U.K. chemical weapons’ inspectors, Syrian and Russian officials are blocking access to the site of alleged chemical weapon attacks in Douma.  British Prime Minister reiterated the claim on Monday while addressing Parliament, but Moscow says the issue is a lack of U.N. clearance.

In addition, U.S. inspectors have raised the possibility authorities on-the-ground have attempted to clear the area of evidence that a chemical attack took place — a claim vehemently denied by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Reports from Western and local medical experts say evidence of chlorine and another chemical have been found in body samples taken from victims.  

 

One day after President Trump declared U.S., British and French airstrikes against Syria an unqualified success, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stark warning about further Western military action against the Assad regime.

In a telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Sunday, Mr. Putin and Rouhani concurred the strikes carried out by the West had “seriously damaged the prospects” for a peaceful solution to the situation in Syria.

A statement released by the Kremlin also revealed Mr. Putin to give advanced warning of the consequences of additional strikes targeting Damascus.

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, emphasized that if such actions continue in violation of the UN Charter, this will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the Kremlin press release read.

Mr. Putin’s remarks were published shortly after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS Russia is willing to explore every avenue to mend relations with the West.

Speaking again with TASS on Monday morning, Ryabkov said it is his belief no further strikes by the West against Syria were forthcoming.

Despite Ryabkov’s conciliatory tone, during a Sunday appearance on Face the Nation, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told host Margaret Brennan the U.S. was drafting further economic sanctions against Russia.

As Haley spoke, Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, and Russian military personnel met with investigators with Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is probing the alleged April 7 chemical attack on Douma.

Russia has repeatedly called for the group to be allowed to conduct an independent inquiry and draw conclusions over the suspected chemical attack and later denounced Friday’s airstrikes carried out by the West, in part over its refusal to wait for OPCW’s findings.

In announcing the mission, Trump said the U.S. “does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria”, but French President Emmanuel Macron indicated in a weekend interview he personally persuaded the White House “it was necessary to stay for the long term.”

Following Macron’s remarks, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reiterated “(the president) wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible”.

 

[Sky News] [Reuters] [Gulf Today] [BBC] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy Independent.ie]