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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Any US-Russia conflict over Syria will set Mideast on fire: Turkey

Iran Press TV

Thu Apr 12, 2018 08:31AM

Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli has warned against the ramifications of a potential conflict between the US and Russia over the Syria issue, saying such an incident will set the entire Middle East "on fire."

"If an attack occurs against the forces [in Syria] backed by Russia or there is an attack by the US-supported forces, Russia will not be able to stay away, otherwise it will lose its influence. So, serious clashes may start," Canikli said on Wednesday.

"Just one spark may set the entire region on fire and open the door for the conflict," he added.

The Turkish minister called on both parties to exercise restraint.

Also on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on Russia and the United States to end their "street fighting" over Syria, warning that the rivalry will jeopardize the lives of civilians.

"It is street fighting. They are fighting like street bullies. But who is paying the price? It is civilians," Yildirim said in a televised speech in Istanbul.

"Now is not the time for rivalry. It is the time to heal the wounds in the region and to come together," he added.

Yildirim noted that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- including Russia and the US -- bear "much greater responsibility" under current circumstances.

Making reference to US President Donald Trump's hostile posts on Twitter, the Turkish premier noted, "Yet what are they doing? By posting tweets they are threatening each other."

"One says 'I have better missiles' and the other says 'mine are better,'" he said.

Turkey is a key NATO ally of the United States but tensions between Ankara and Washington have intensified over the past months, particularly over the Syrian issue.

According to a White House statement, Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the crisis in Syria during a phone conversation on Wednesday and agreed to stay in close touch over the issue.

"President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to discuss the current crisis in Syria. The two leaders agreed to stay in close contact about the situation," the statement said, without providing further details.

Since late 2016, Turkey, Iran and Russia have been making joint efforts to help end the conflict in Syria. The three countries act as guarantor states for a peace process that started in January 2017.

In that attempt at brokering peace – known as the Astana peace process – Russia and Iran act as Syrian government allies, and Turkey represents the Syrian opposition.

Turkey, itself, is militarily present in northern Syria. It has captured the town of Afrin from US-backed militants, refusing to return it to the Syrian government.

The news comes amid threats of a US military strike against Syria following an alleged chemical attack in the country's militant-held town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta region.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution to launch a probe into the suspected attack.

A war of words has erupted between Washington and Moscow over the issue, with Trump and his allies in the West threatening to take military action against Syria.

Trump posted a fiery tweet earlier on Wednesday, in which he warned Russia -- one of Syria's key supporters in the war against foreign-backed militancy -- that it should get prepared to "shoot down" missiles that the US military would soon rain down over Syrian targets.

In response to Trump's tweet, the Kremlin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said later in the day that Moscow would steer clear from "Twitter-diplomacy" and rather engage in "serious approaches."

Syria has firmly denied any links to the attack, which reportedly killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 1,000 others. Russia says the number of casualties is not true.

Moscow and Damascus have called on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the attack and find the real perpetrators.

The US has so far failed to offer any evidence to support its claims against Syria.

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