Follow live updates as the Labour leader calls for a UN-led investigation into Syria after the cabinet backed Theresa May’s warning that Assad’s use of chemical weapons should not go unchallenged
In that news conference Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, claimed Moscow had “irrefutable” evidence that the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged with the help of a foreign secret service, AFP reports.
“We have irrefutable evidence that this was another staged event, and that the secret services of a certain state that is now at the forefront of a Russophobic campaign was involved in this staged event,” he said during a press conference.
Russia’s embassy in the UK says it concerned by reports that the cabinet has agreed to take action against Syria.
In a statement it said any airstrikes could hamper the OPCW’s investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Douma.
“At the request of the Syrian Government the OPCW sent a fact-finding team to Douma. The experts will arrive tomorrow. Syrian authorities will provide all the relevant security guarantees. Russia is ready to assist in ensuring its safety. We are interested in seeing independent experts there, so they can make all the necessary tests without delay.
The conditions on the ground, now that the Russian military police is present in Douma, are appropriate for conducting investigation of the alleged incident.
Donald Trump and Theresa May last night discussed the need for a joint response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, according to Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to London.
In a tweet Johnson suggested that any US-led action in Syria would be coordinated with the UK.
Last night President Trump & Prime Minister May spoke on the need for a joint response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. We will continue to coordinate with our #1 Ally. pic.twitter.com/P1zm1mYCr8
Isamael Abdulla, a 31-year-old resident of western Aleppo, says he is constantly monitoring Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.
I’m waiting for his most powerful tweet yet in which declares war against Bashar Al-Assad. The problem with the Syrian crisis is the international community’s hesitation. It has refused to halt the killing machine of the Syrian regime and its deadly supporters in Russia and Iran.
I’m worried that his tweets are merely negotiating tactics.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said he hoped that there would be no repeat of the experience of Libya and Iraq in the Syria conflict.
The Labour leader has asked for a security briefing – on privy council terms – on Syria, but it is understood no response has been received from Number 10.
Labour are also actively exploring ways to bring a debate on any military action to parliament, but will have difficulty forcing a Commons vote. The party does not have any scheduled opposition debates next week.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has told Sky News it will protect its people on the ground in Syria if missiles are launched by the US and its allies.
She said: “Russia should protect its people on the ground, of course. We came to Syria at the invitation of the people. You can see their appreciation on the ground.”
Bassam Abu Abdullah, an advisor to Syrian Ministry of Information, has again denied that the Syrian army attacked civilians with chemical weapon.
Speaking to BBC News he said: “We didn’t use and we will not use any kind of chemical weapons because we don’t have these kind of chemical weapons after 2013. We joined the international agreement on the prohibition of chemical weapons.”
“We are not ready to give any opportunity for the US, France or Britain to attack us. We are defending ourselves. We are not attacking British interests. We are not a threat to the national security of the US or France or Britain. This is our right to defend our state. We are combatting terrorists, we are not combatting democratic people. Who left Eastern Gouta? They are terrorists from Jaish al-Islam the Wahhabi movement.”
Thousands of Islamist fighters and their relatives left Douma as the last evacuations from Eastern Ghouta continued, AFP reports citing the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The fighters from the Jaish al-Islam group left overnight with thousands of civilians on board 85 buses that took them to areas of northern Syria still held by rebels.
The evacuations are part of a deal brokered by Damascus’s Russian ally to re-establish regime control on Eastern Ghouta, a area just on the edge of the capital that had escaped government control since 2012.
Russia’s deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich has said international relations should not depend on the mood of one person when he wakes up in the morning, according Russian news agency reports cited by Reuters.
In an early-morning tweet on Wednesday, Trump warned that missiles “will be coming” in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces. Russia is Syria’s most important military ally in the country’s civil war.
“We cannot depend on the mood of someone on the other side of the ocean when he wakes up, on what a specific person takes into his head in the morning,” Dvorkovich said at a forum in Krasnoyarsk, according to the Tass news agency.
Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah does not believe the latest Syria crisis will spiral into a wider war, its deputy leader has said, Reuters reports.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogăn has warned Russia and the US against treating the Syrian conflict as a proxy war.
France’s foreign ministry has produced a video, translated into English, setting out why it thinks France has a duty to react to the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It also repeats President Emmanuel Macron’s claim in a TV interview on Thursday that France has proof that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Douma.
The OPCW has completed its independent analysis of the chemical substance used in the Salisbury attack. The report confirms the UK’s findings. pic.twitter.com/4JAGJjJcYt
The US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War has been tracking reports of military movements of Russia and Syria since last weekend’s chemical attack on Douma.
Two Russian Su-24M ‘Fencer’ attack aircraft conducted several low-altitude passes in close proximity to the USS Donald Cook and the French frigate Aquitaine in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea on April 11. The Russian Navy conducted a firing drilloff the Syrian coast in a likely attempt to deter U.S. and allied naval maneuvers near Syria on April 11.
Russia reportedly deployed four Tu-95MS ‘Bear’ and Tu-160M ‘Blackjack’ strategic bombers as well as an unspecified number of Il-78M tanker aircraft from the Engels Air Base in Southern Russia. Their final destination is unknown although they may be bound for Syria or theHamedan Air Basein Western Iran. Russia previously targeted locations in Eastern Syria from the Engels Air Base.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has struggled to defend Labour’s call for a UN-led inspection into the Douma attack.
A split in the shadow cabinet over military action in Syria has emerged.
My clarification on tonight’s media reports. pic.twitter.com/pomFGpE6M8
There are growing calls for the government to give parliament a vote before launching any military intervention in Syria.
A Downing Street statement issued after Thursday’s cabinet meeting made no reference to whether MPs should be given a say.
I am not convinced that the retaliatory airstrikes being proposed by the United States is a proper way forward. Though should the UK government wish to participate then it must only do so if the UK parliament gives its consent. This is a view shared by a cross-party group of MPs who have signed EDM 92 to that effect, and a number of your own colleagues who have put forward this view in the media these past few days.
Despite Donald Trump’s slightly more circumspect rhetoric over Syria on Thursday it is hard to escape the drum beat for military intervention.
The Times claims the largest US air and naval strike force since the 2003 Iraq war is heading towards Syria.
“Further UK military intervention in Syria’s appalling multi-sided war risks escalating an already devastating conflict.
“The Government appears to be waiting for instructions from President Donald Trump on how to proceed. But the US administration is giving alarmingly contradictory signals.
Link : Syria crisis: Russia claims Douma chemical attack was staged – live