Syria war: UN emergency talks after US missile strikes

Syria war: UN emergency talks after US missile strikes

The UN Security Council has heard sharp exchanges over the US bombardment of a Syrian air base suspected of using chemical weapons.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint as Russia accused the US of encouraging “terrorists” in the region with its unilateral actions.

Russia has promised to strengthen its ally Syria’s anti-aircraft defences.

It is also closing down a hotline with the US designed to avoid collisions between their air forces over Syria.

US officials say the base was used to launch a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday.

In the first direct US military action against Syria’s government, at least six people are reported to have been killed.

Idlib’s opposition-run health authority says 89 people, including 33 children and 18 women, died in the suspected nerve gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Syria denies using nerve gas.

What are they saying in New York?

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, told Friday’s session in New York the US military’s “illegitimate” missile strikes had encouraged “terrorists” in Syria.

“When you take your own path, this leads to horrible tragedies in the region,” he told America.

US ambassador Nikki Haley said America had acted to ensure President Assad would never use chemical weapons again.

She blamed Iran and Russia for standing by the Syrian government when it committed crimes. “Strengthening Assad will only lead to more murders,” she said.

 

The UK ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said the US strikes were a “proportionate response to unspeakable acts”

America’s weapon of choice: Analysis by Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence & diplomatic correspondent

Cruise missiles fly low and have a relatively small radar cross-section so they are difficult to destroy with air defences. Russia may seek to improve Syria’s surface-to-air missile system in the wake of this US attack but it would be very much a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Graphic of Tomahawk cruise missile

Syria used to have a highly effective national air defence system based on Soviet-era radars and missiles but it has been significantly weakened in the wake of the civil war and the loss of territory by the regime. Look at the ease with which the Israelis carry out strikes against Hezbollah arms convoys and weapons stores in Syria.

Russia has some of its most modern surface-to-air missile systems at its air base in Syria and radars with a huge reach but, for whatever reason, they too have not deterred Israeli strikes.

Their presence makes air strikes by manned US aircraft unlikely and for Washington the Tomahawk cruise missile will remain the weapon of choice