Putin slams Netanyahu over ‘unfounded accusations’ on Syria
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Putin slams Netanyahu over ‘unfounded accusations’ on Syria

Moscow defends Damascus in ‘incident with chemical weapons’ after Israeli defense minister says he’s ‘100% certain’ Assad directly responsible

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the “unfounded accusations” from Israel over the “incident with chemical weapons” in Syria.

In a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday, Putin “underlined that it’s unacceptable to make unfounded accusations against anyone until after a thorough and unbiased international investigation,” the Kremlin said.

“There was an exchange of opinions over the incident with chemical weapons that took place in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4,” Moscow said in a statement.

“Putin in particular underlined the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out,” it said.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed he spoke with Putin, but didn’t comment on the reported scolding he received.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, on March 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, on March 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier on Thursday, in an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of being directly responsible for the chemical attack on Tuesday that left scores dead and spurred international outrage and calls for action against Damascus.

Liberman said that he has “100 percent certainty” that Assad himself was directly responsible for the attack, but also said Israel would not become involved militarily to stop the bloodshed.

“The murderous chemical weapons attacks on citizens in Idlib province in Syria and on a local hospital were carried out on the direct order and planned by the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, using Syrian planes,” he said.

An unconscious Syrian child receives treatment at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)
An unconscious Syrian child receives treatment at a hospital in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, following a suspected toxic gas attack on April 4, 2017. (AFP/Omar Haj Kadour)

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, during the call, Netanyahu told Putin that the international community needs to “complete the effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria, as was agreed upon in 2013.”

The prime minister also expressed sympathy for the bombing of a subway in Saint Petersburg, Russia, earlier this week.

After the chemical attack Netanyahu said he was “shocked and outraged,” yet did not make any mention of Assad, possibly to avoid irking Russia. Israel has worked hard to foster strong relations with Moscow in order to maintain its ability to carry out on airstrikes in Syria to thwart weapons transfers to the Hezbollah terror group, which is fighting alongside Assad’s forces.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, had earlier warned the West against rushing to blame Assad for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. He said the West lacks objective evidence against Assad, adding that materials presented by local activists can’t serve as a proof.

Moscow has sought to deflect blame from its Syrian ally over the incident and says Syrian jets struck a rebel arms depot where “toxic substances” were being put inside bombs.

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