Meanwhile Russia called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over what it called “a clear act of aggression.”
A spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, said it violated the norms of international law and was carried out on a “made-up pretext” in a cynical bid to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq.
“It is clear that this strike was well prepared in advance,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters.
“It is clear for every expert that Washington took the decision before the events in Idlib. And this is a pretext to show their force.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (pictured) said he hoped the US strikes would not irreparably damage relations between Moscow and Washington.
“This is an act of aggression, on an absolutely made-up pretext,” Lavrov told a news conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel once again condemned the “chemical weapons massacre of innocent people in Syria” and implied that the US missile strikes in response were justified.
“We all know that chemical weapons are condemned internationally and that anyone who uses them commits a war crime,” Merkel said at an event for refugee helpers in Berlin, calling the US response “limited and targeted.”
Earlier in the day, Germany and France issued a joint statement, which did not mention the U.S. strikes, but condemned Tuesday’s chemical attack against Syrian civilians and urged a United Nations reaction.
Reactions from European Union governments and their neighbors ranged from tepid expressions of “comprehension” to outright embrace.
The United Kingdom was informed in advance of the attack and provided immediate backing. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in an interview with ITV‘s Good Morning Britain: “We are backing it. We fully support this strike.”
The U.K.’s former chancellor George Osborne on Twitter praised U.S. President Donald Trump for enforcing the West’s “100-year-old” red line against the use of chemical weapons, and condemned a 2013 House of Commons vote against strikes on Syria that contributed to ex-U.S. president Barack Obama’s decision not to respond to a similar attack four years ago with a show of force.
After the strike early Friday, the Syrian army said six people had been killed and its airbase had sustained “extensive” damage, according to the BBC. This information has not been independently verified.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement that the use of chemical weapons “must be answered,” and that the strike was an effort “to deter further [chemical] attacks.” He also said he had received assurances from the U.S. that the strikes “were limited.”
French media reported Friday that President François Hollande would hold a defense council meeting later in the day. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France Info that Russian and Iranian support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was “despicable” and did not make “any sense.” He also said that Assad “must be tried as a war criminal.”
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said his country “understands the reasons of a U.S. military action … as a response to an unacceptable sense of impunity and as a signal of deterrence towards the risks of further uses of chemical weapons by Assad.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the U.S. intervention was “a big warning” to Assad’s regime. “He [Assad] should know that he can’t get away with using chemical weapons.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured on right with Syrian President Assad) called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Friday to protest Thursday’s US missile strike at a Syrian airfield.
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