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How Is The Rest Of The World Reacting To The U.S. Strike On Syria?

Hours after President Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base, responses from the rest of the world are beginning to stack up.

The U.S. military operation, which fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base, was conducted in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.

Russia, a staunch ally of Assad's regime, swiftly condemned the U.S. strike as "an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext," as NPR's Bill Chappell reports.

The Kremlin says it will suspend the "deconfliction channel," which is intended to prevent unintentional conflicts with the U.S. in Syria, and the strike prompted the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency meeting Friday.

A number of other international leaders also have responded to the U.S. show of force. Here's a rundown of some of their statements, from Syria's Middle Eastern neighbors outward.

Turkey: "I hope this operation marks a beginning"

"We find it important and significant that Mr. Trump particularly kept his promise and staged the operation, and we support it," Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said, according to Hurriyet Daily News. "We are also calling on all the international community to be in solidarity on this issue."

The paper reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the strike at a rally Friday.

"We find this [operation] positive as a step against the al-Assad regime's war crimes committed with chemical and conventional weapons. But is it enough? I don't see it as being enough," he said. "No one has the right to feel tranquil and secure in a world where children are brutally slaughtered."

He added: "I hope this operation marks a beginning."

Iran: "Such measures will strengthen terrorists"

The "unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law," said Bahram Ghasemi of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to The New York Times.

Like Russia, Iran is an ally of Assad's regime.

Citing the ISNA news agency, Al-Jazeera also notes Ghasemi said that "such measures will strengthen terrorists ... and it will complicate the situation in Syria and the region."

Saudi Arabia: A "courageous" response to "odious crimes"

"Saudi Arabia fully supports the US military operations against military targets in Syria, which were a response to the regime's use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians," a Foreign Ministry official said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Jordan: "A necessary and appropriate response"

"Jordan considers the strike as a necessary and appropriate response to the nonstop targeting of innocent civilians with WMDs and committing crimes against humanity," said Mohammad Momani, the Jordanian minister of state for media affairs and communications.

Israel: A "strong and clear message"

Israel "fully supports" the "strong and clear message" sent by the airstrikes," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He added that the message should "resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere."

France and Germany: "Assad alone bears responsibility"

In a joint statement released after a phone call Friday, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel asserted that "President Assad alone bears responsibility for this development."

"His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned."

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday the strikes are a reminder that defeating the Islamic State is not the only priority for Western allies:

" 'Now a signal has been given,' said Ayrault. 'And Russia and Iran must understand that their unquestioning support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad makes no sense.'

"Ayrault said the parties must come back to Geneva for deep, sincere negotiations."

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also cautioned that there is need for a multilateral response.

"As understandable as a U.S. military strike against military structures is after the failure of the Security Council, it's just as crucial to look at joint peace efforts in the framework of the U.N.," he said in a statement.

The U.K.: "An appropriate response"

"The U.K. government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks," a spokesperson for the British government said Friday.

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon affirmed this support, telling the BBC that the U.K. received "advance notice of the president's final decision."

"It is Russia that has the influence over the regime that could bring this war to a halt if they chose to do so," Fallon said, "and I hope will learn from what happened last night and use its influence against Assad to bring this slaughter to a stop."

But not every British politician was fully on board.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the minority Labour Party, said the U.K. should be urging the Trump administration to exercise restraint:

"Unilateral military action without legal authorisation or independent verification risks intensifying a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people."

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday. The U.S. missile strike in Syria added weight to Trump's suggestion he might act unilaterally against the nuclear weapons program of China's neighbor North Korea.
Alex Brandon / AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday. The U.S. missile strike in Syria added weight to Trump's suggestion he might act unilaterally against the nuclear weapons program of China's neighbor North Korea.

China: No public response yet

Chinese President Xi Jinping wraps up his first in-person meetings with President Trump in Florida on Friday — but Xi has yet to make public remarks regarding the strikes on Syria. Nor has his government.

Earlier in the week, China's Foreign Ministry responded to Assad's apparent chemical attack by urging an end to "further deterioration" in Syria. The department condemned the apparent chemical attack specifically.

It bears noting that Trump's response in Syria has some implications for how he may approach North Korea, another country that has given the international community fits.

China remains one of North Korea's few allies, and NPR's Elise Hu notes that Beijing's defense agreement with Pyongyang means that if the U.S. decides to strike North Korea, the U.S. and China would be effectively at war.

Japan: "Highly praises" President Trump's "strong commitment"

"In Syria, chemical weapons have once again taken the lives of many innocent people. The international community is immensely shocked by this tragedy in which young children were among the victims. It is extremely inhumane and violates the relevant United Nations Security Council resolution," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.

"The Government of Japan supports the resolve of the U.S. Government of never tolerating the proliferation and use of chemical weapons. We understand that the latest action taken by the United States was a measure intended to prevent the further worsening of the situation."

Bolivia: The U.N. "prohibits unilateral actions"

NPR's Bill Chappell notes that Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti called the U.S. strike a serious violation of international law, referring "to a copy of the U.N. charter as he said it 'prohibits unilateral actions.' "

Bill adds:

"Llorenti also said the U.S. has a history of intervening in other nations, including in Latin America — and he held up a photo of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2003, during his famous 'weapons of mass destruction' speech at the U.N., to illustrate his argument."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.