Iran and Russia condemn attack but support comes from allies including Canada and Israel
The decision by the US president, Donald Trump, to launch air strikes on Syria with backing from the UK and France has proved globally divisive, with some countries praising the military action while others condemned it as provocative and unacceptable.
Among the strongest critics of the airstrikes were Russia and Iran, staunch allies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who both have a military presence on the ground in Syria.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denounced the strikes as an “act of aggression” that would exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said Moscow was calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council over the strikes launched by the US, Britain and France.
Putin added that the attack had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations”.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the US-led strikes on Syria a “military crime”. According to state news agency IRNA, Khamenei spoke at a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors from some Islamic countries.
“The attack this morning against Syria is a crime,” Khamenei added later on his Telegram channel. “The American president, the French president and the British prime minister are criminals, they will gain nothing from it.”
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the allied strikes in Syria were a “necessary and appropriate” response to what the US and its allies say was a recent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
Merkel said Berlin viewed the US, UK and France had taken “responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN security council ... to maintain the effectiveness of the international rejection of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations”.
In a response to questions about the strikes, China’s foreign ministry called any military action that bypasses the UN security council a violation of international law.
“We consistently oppose the use of force in international relations, and advocate respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
“China believes that a political solution is the only realistic way out for the Syrian issue,” she added. “China urges all the relevant parties to return to the framework of international law and to resolve the issue through dialogue and consultation.”
The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said those who rely on chemical warfare must be held to account by the world.
Juncker said the suspected use of poison gas last week in the Syrian city of Douma was as he puts it a “heinous chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime”. He said the world “has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible” for the attack.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who this week ruled out his country’s participation in military action in Syria, announced his unequivocal support for the targeted bombings.
“Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” he said. Trudeau added that Canada would continue to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that those responsible for the recent attacks “must be brought to justice”.
Israel, which was recently accused by Iran of carrying out its own airstrikes on military bases in Syria, was among the first to praise the strikes.
“Last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line.”
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the actions by the US, France and UK coalition should be supported because they would “reduce the government’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons”.
“Nato has consistently condemned Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons as a clear breach of international norms and agreements,” he said. “The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable.”
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the strikes as an “appropriate response”.
Ankara said chemical weapons attacks that indiscriminately target civilians “constitute crimes against humanity” and should not go unpunished.
UN secretary- general, António Guterres, said that while use of chemical weapons was “abhorrent” and “horrendous”, he urged caution in retaliating, expressing concern that any escalation of the violence would only increase the suffering of those living in Syria.
“I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” Guterres said in a statement.
The strikes carried out by the US, France and Britain against Syrian military targets could give terrorism an opportunity to expand in the region, the Iraqi foreign ministry said, calling the raids “a very dangerous development”.
“Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” it said.