Through a flurry of contacts with world authorities, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been promoting a proposal by President Hassan Rouhani for an international, impartial investigation into accusations of a chemical attack in northwestern Syria.
At least 86 people died in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province last week in what the opponents of the Syrian government say was a chemical attack by Damascus. Syria has, however, denied the accusation, saying instead that a chemical weapons depot held and run by anti-Damascus militants had been hit in a conventional Syrian airstrike, causing the leak of the chemicals and the deaths. Russia has confirmed that account.
Meanwhile, and amid increased belligerence toward Damascus, Iran, another Syrian ally, has called for an international investigation by impartial parties. President Rouhani put forth the idea on Saturday. He has also condemned the use of chemical weapons by any party.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has now been holding telephone conversations with world leaders to stress the need for a fact-finding probe.
He has most recently called United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfan, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Iranian foreign minister has also talked to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, as well as his Russian, Omani, Syrian, and Algerian counterparts over the matter.
Amid Iranian diplomatic efforts, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday that foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Syria would hold a meeting in Moscow this week to discuss the US strikes against Syria.
“A trilateral meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Syrian minister Walid al-Muallem and Iranian minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is planned for the end of this week," Zakharova said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Tuesday confirmed Zarif’s visit.
“The [Iranian] foreign minister will travel to Moscow on Friday to participate in the trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Syria,” Qassemi said.
Using the Idlib tragedy as a pretext, US President Donald Trump on Friday ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase. A barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles was launched against the Shayrat Airfield in the western Syrian Homs Province early on that same day, causing some 15 fatalities, including civilians.
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The US strike was conducted without a mandate by the United Nations Security Council, and did not even have a US Congress approval. American officials have, meanwhile, threatened more attacks against the Syrian government.
The Friday strike and the threats of more attacks have been met with strong reactions from Syria’s main allies Iran and Russia, both of whom have condemned the attack.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that the US strike was a “strategic mistake.”
On Monday, President Rouhani warned that any further US strikes on Syria could push the region into a “very dangerous” situation.
“America did this once, but will it go unanswered next time? The Russians have said that a confrontation was only a few inches away [during the Friday strike]. They are right, if the missiles had hit a few hundred meters away from where they did hit, it could have led to a major confrontation,” Rouhani said, apparently referring to the fact that Russian forces were based at the site that the US hit.
Following the attack, the Iranian president held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during which they said aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law.
They also called for an objective investigation into the Idlib incident, and both stressed that finding about all aspects of the matter through that channel would be quite “easy.”