Britain, Turkey say Syria action possible without UN

Turkish FM says there are some 36 nations discussing alternatives to act against Syria if UN Security Council is blocked.

By REUTERS
August 26, 2013 10:47
4 minute read.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Osman Orsal )

ISTANBUL - Turkey would join any international coalition against Syria even if a wider consensus on action cannot be reached at the UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying on Monday.

"We always prioritize acting together with the international community, with United Nations decisions. If such a decision doesn't emerge from the UN Security Council, other alternatives ... would come onto the agenda," Davutoglu told the Milliyet daily.

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"Currently 36-37 countries are discussing these alternatives. If a coalition is formed against Syria in this process, Turkey would take its place in this coalition."

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday it would be possible to respond to chemical weapons use in Syria without the unanimous backing of the Security Council.

"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes it is otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don't think that's an acceptable situation," Hague said on BBC radio.

"The United Nations Security Council ... has not been united on Syria, has not shouldered its responsibilities on Syria, bluntly, otherwise there would have been a better chance of bringing this conflict to an end a long time ago," Hague said.

"Whatever we do will be in accordance with international law and will be based on legal advice to the national security council and to the cabinet," he added.

Turkey has emerged as one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's most vocal critics during the two-and-a-half year conflict, sheltering half a million refugees and allowing the opposition to organize on its soil.

The NATO member has criticized world powers for failing to take a decisive stance. The UN Security Council has been hamstrung by the opposition of veto-wielding members, Russia and China, to any firm action.

"From the outset, Turkey has argued that the international community must not stand by in the face of the Assad regime's massacres," Davutoglu said.

"Leaving unpunished leaders and regimes which resort to such practices undermines the deterrence of the international community. Those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity must definitely be punished."

France
's foreign minister said on Monday no decision had been made yet on whether to take military action against Syria, but doing so outside the auspices of the UN Security Council would be problematic.

"It is a problem that will be difficult," Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio.

"International law is defined by the United Nations, but at same time there are countries (on the council) that are blocking (military action)- China and Russia have blocked and would probably block again so it would be a problem.

"In certain circumstances we can bypass it, but international law does exist," he said without elaborating.

All options on how to respond to the poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs were still open. "The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything," he added.




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In an interview published by a Russian newspaper on Monday, Assad dismissed claims his forces used chemical weapons and warned Washington that any US military intervention would fail.

Fabius said there was no doubt that Assad's forces were behind the attack, reiterating comments made by the French government on Sunday.

"There has been a chemical attack, it's the responsibility of Assad's regime and so there must be a reaction."

United Nations inspectors are due to visit the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack on Monday, but Fabius said it was too late and that in any case they did not have the remit to say who was responsible.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has allegedly been pressuring US President Barack Obama to launch a prompt military strike on Syria in response to its supposed chemical weapons attack last Wednesday, The Times of London reported Monday.

British government sources said talks between Western leaders were ongoing and that any agreed upon military action could be exercised in the coming week.

Cameron and Obama were due to speak on Monday or Tuesday in a continuation of talks held on Saturday between the two about the Syria issue.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was also scheduled to meet with his British counterpart General Nick Houghton on Monday in Jordan to discuss viable options.

The UK has reportedly been preparing naval vessels for a possible US-led attack on Syria, according to London-based The Daily Telegraph.


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