Russia should take airstrikes on Syria as a warning over its use of chemical weapons, Theresa May has said.
Speaking in Downing Street after Friday night’s military action against Bashar al Assad’s regime, the Prime Minister said the strikes had been limited in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma last weekend.
Mrs May drew a link with the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, telling a news conference: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”
The Prime Minister was asked if the strikes had been a warning to Russia and responded: “The action that took place last night was an action which was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and the willingness of the Syrian regime to continue to use chemical weapons.
“There have been many instances when we have seen them using those chemical weapons.
“But I believe it should also be a message to others that the international community is not going to stand by and allow chemical weapons to be used with impunity.”
Mrs May said chemical weapons had “all too often” been used in recent times.
“I think it is right that the international community has come together and said we will not accept this,” she added.
The airstrikes on Syria were carried out in a joint operation between the UK, US and France.
US President Donald Trump announced the “precision strikes” on Friday night.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the military action against Syria was “legally questionable” and makes real accountability for war crimes less likely.
He said: “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace. This legally questionable action risks escalating further, as US defence secretary James Mattis has admitted, an already devastating conflict and therefore makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely.”
Mr Corbyn said he would be pushing for the Government to release the legal advice it received ahead of the strikes.
On Saturday afternoon the Government published advice it said it had received, which said the UK “considers that military action met the requirements of humanitarian intervention”.
It said the Syrian regime has been using chemical weapons since 2013, killing nearly 1,000 civilians and injuring hundreds more which “constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity”.
The document said it was “highly likely” the regime would seek to use chemical weapons again despite the international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons..
It said the UK and its international partners have continually tried to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons use in Syria at the UN Security Council but have repeatedly been blocked by the regime and its allies, naming Russia.
“Since 2013 neither diplomatic action, tough sanctions, nor the US strikes against the Shayrat airbase in April 2017 have sufficiently degraded Syrian chemical weapons capability or deterred the Syrian regime from causing extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale through its persistent use of chemical weapons,” it said.
“There was no practicable alternative to the truly exceptional use of force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their further use by the Syrian regime in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering.”
The action was highly targeted, necessary and proportionate to alleviate humanitarian distress and “therefore legally justifiable” it added.
“The action was the minimum judged necessary for that purpose.”
Mrs May has been heavily criticised for not recalling Parliament to put the plans to a vote and will go before the Commons on Monday to answer questions about her decision, insisting there was no “alternative path”.
However, there have been plenty of MPs, including some Conservatives opposed to action in 2013, who have publicly backed the prime minister.
Mr Trump said Syria’s use of chemical weapons in Douma was a “significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime”.
After the announcement, the US said strikes had been launched at 9pm EST (2am BST) and had destroyed important infrastructure at three sites connected with the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons programme.
General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the allied strikes destroyed three main chemical weapons facilities.
They included a scientific research facility in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs and a third location that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility in the same area, the US military added.
Russia reacted with fury to the attacks with President Vladimir Putin denouncing the airstrikes as an “act of aggression”.
In a statement from the Kremlin, Mr Putin said Moscow was calling an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
He said: “Russia in the most serious way condemns the attack on Syria where Russian military servicemen help the legitimate government to fight terrorism.”
Moscow’s ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences”.
The Syrian government, which denies the chemical attack, said the strikes were “brutal, barbaric aggression” by western powers and vowed to continue to “restore security and stability in all corners of the country”.
State news agency SANA, quoting an official in Syria’s foreign ministry, said: “The barbaric aggression will not affect in any way the determination and insistence of the Syrian people and their heroic armed forces.
“This aggression will only lead to inflaming tensions in the world and threatens international security.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said: “Our response has been limited to the capabilities of the Syrian regime relating to the production and use of chemical weapons.
“We cannot tolerate the trivialisation of the use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and for our collective security.”
From – SkyNews