Western powers have apparently told the Syrian opposition that a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces could come within days. The information, obtained by Reuters, comes from sources who attended a meeting between the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul and envoys from 11 core “Friends of Syria” members.
The news comes after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem announced that the second day of the UN weapons inspectors’ probe into alleged chemical weapon use in Damascus had been postponed.
Moualem told US Secretary of State John Kerry that the government was not obstructing the work but that there had been disagreements among the rebels over security arrangements.
In a statement the UN team in Syria announced: “Following yesterday’s attack on the UN convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team. Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.”
During a news conference Moualem said the army would press on with its military campaign despite the threat of possible foreign strikes. He also said that any strikes on Syria would serve the interests of Al-Qaeda linked groups.
The international community, facing a deadlocked UN Security Council, is looking at other means to legitimise a military strike on Syria. The 15-nation Council has been in limbo since the uprising against the Assad regime began in 2011.
Both Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions calling for firm action against Damascus.
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron recalled the parliament from its summer break; on Thursday it will begin discussions on how best to respond to the situation in Syria. A Downing Street spokesperson said on Tuesday that the British armed forces were drawing up contingency plans even if no decision has been made yet over military action.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called the gas attacks a “crime against humanity” and insisted they should not go unanswered. He added that the situation was a “test” for the international community.
The US has intervened in conflicts before without UN backing, notably in Kosovo in 1999, and may well do again as President Obama seeks a so-called “coalition of the willing”.
Any attacks on Syria backed by Britain, France and Turkey, to name but a few, will anger Moscow – an ally of Assad.
The US believes the allegations that Assad used chemical weapons are true, something Syria denies.
Speaking in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry adopted a tough tone: “The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilised world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.”
As the diplomacy continued the bloody conflict rumbles on with attacks by both sides, either by chemical or conventional weapons, a daily occurrence.
To date 100,00 people have been killed and more than two million displaced as a result of the war.