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Missile strike Swiss warn against military escalation in Syria

US President Donald Trump announcing the missile strike on Thursday

(Keystone)

Switzerland has urged the international community to tackle the escalating Syrian crisis through diplomatic means rather than military confrontation. The statement follows United States missile strikes on a Syrian airfield suspected of launching an earlier chemical attack.

The Swiss government reiterated its condemnation of Tuesday’s chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. The statementexternal link called the attack, which led to at least 72 deaths, as a “war crime”.

However, Switzerland also called for a “concerted and rapid reaction from the [United Nations] Security Council and to avoid a military escalation”. Urging Syria in particular to grant access to a UN inquiry into the chemical attack, Switzerland also said it “favours a political solution to the Syrian crisis” and supports UN-backed attempts at dialogue, spearheaded by the UN’s special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

The statement came hard on the heels of an overnight missile attack on Syria’s Shayrat airbase from warships based in the region. US President Donald Trump accused the Syrian government of launching Tuesday’s suspected Sarin gas attack from the airfield.

The Syrian army said that six people were killed during the missile strike, but the number of casualties has not yet been confirmed. Russia and Iran have condemned the attack, while the European Union and individual nations, including France, Germany and Britain have broadly backed the US action.

International armed conflict

Meanwhile, the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Crossexternal link (ICRC) says the situation in Syria "amounts to an international armed conflict".

An ICRC spokeswoman said the US missile attack was raised in an ongoing confidential dialogue with US officials, but she declined to give details.   

The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war.

Under international humanitarian law, whether a conflict is internal or international, civilians must be spared and medical facilities protected. 

swissinfo.ch with agencies, mga/ug

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