The Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has addressed the media confirming the country’s support for the US airstrike, which was targeted at a Syrian airfield. In making his statement, Prime Minster called out the Assad regime for its most recent chemical attack; a crime he referred to as “horrific” – “It was a crime that called out for a swift response,” said Mr Turnbull. “The perpetrators must be held to account.
The Prime Minister confirmed that Australia had been consulted by the United States in the hours prior to its airstrike against the Syrian regime. Mr Turnbull said that while Australia was not directly involved in the airstrike, the country remained a committed ally to the United States in its ongoing operations in both Syria and Iraq. “The Australian government strongly support the swift and just response taken by the United States.”
The Prime Minster’s comments were backed by the Minister for Defence, Marise Payne, who confirmed that she had been consulted by the US Secretary for Defence early this morning. Minister Payne echoed the Prime Minister’s condemnation of the chemical attacks committed by the Assad regime. “Australia absolutely condemns the deplorable attack against the Syrian people.” Minister Payne also confirmed that Australia was not involved in the US missile strike.
When asked about the next steps in solving the Syrian conflict, the Prime Minister noted that the situation was “complex”, and questioned whether there was a role for Mr Assad in any real solution. “The events of the last few days, I think, raise very real questions as to whether there can be any role for Mr Assad, in any solution or settlement.”
The Prime Minister also referred to the complexities of the political situation surrounding the crisis, calling on Russia to withdraw its support for Assad, and hold him accountable. “President Trump is right, we need to bring all civilised nations together to bring this conflict to an end,” Mr Turnbull said. “That requires all players, including Russia.”
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The U.S. military launched cruise missile strikes ordered by President Donald Trump against a Syrian airbase controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to a deadly chemical attack in a rebel-held area, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office in January, Trump took the toughest direct U.S. action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.
Some 50 Tomahawk missiles were launched from U.S. Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A target was identified as an airbase in Homs. Further details on the target and the results of the strikes were not immediately known.
Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack, which killed at least 70 people, many of them children, in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian government has denied it was behind the attack.
Trump, who was attending a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort, said earlier on Thursday that “something should happen” with Assad as the White House and Pentagon studied military options.
U.S. military action put the new president at odds with Russia, which has air and ground forces in Syria after intervening there on Assad’s side in 2015 and turning the tide against mostly Sunni Muslim rebel groups.
Trump has until now focused his Syria policy almost exclusively on defeating Islamic State militants in northern Syria, where U.S. special forces are supporting Arab and Kurdish armed groups.
.@realDonaldTrump says as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will in the end, prevail https://t.co/YQ1PUk2JRy pic.twitter.com/NE9982zcEK
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) April 7, 2017
The risks have grown worse since 2013, when Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, considered and then rejected ordering a cruise missile strike in response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s loyalists.
(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Jeff Mason; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)
The US administration’s attack is President Trump’s first order that involves a use of force. His order comes as a response to yesterday’s press conference where he labelled the attack as a “disgrace to humanity” and one that “crossed a lot of lines.”
We will update the story as it happens.
President Trump releases statement
Trump: “Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.” Full transcript: pic.twitter.com/95ZEo1LCNY
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) April 7, 2017