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US strike on Syria “understandable”: Norwegian foreign minister

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US strike on Syria “understandable”: Norwegian foreign minister
Foreign Minister Børge Brende in China. Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix
15:28 CEST+02:00
Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende says that Norway “understands” President Donald Trump's decision to bomb Syria in the wake of gas attacks in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

Brende, currently on an official visit to China, told journalists that Norway was informed about last night's military attack on a Syrian airbase shortly before it took place, and pointed out that it must be viewed in the context of the sarin gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria's Idlib province earlier this week.

“The situation is complicated. But from a Norwegian point of view we can understand that there is a reaction after the gruesome attack [on Khan Sheikhoun, ed.] earlier in the week. The attack seems to be limited to and focused on a military target,” Brende told broadcaster NRK.

The foreign minister said that he expected the American strike to send a warning to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

“This strike sends a strong signal to Assad. The Syrian regime must cease attacks on innocent civilians,” Brende said.

MPs from other parties said that they also supported response to the gas attack in Syria, with some taking a more cautious stance.

“The attack with chemical weapons against the local population in Idlib province this week is one of the most brutal and shocking attacks on civilians the world has seen,” Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre told NRK.

Støre added that he hoped the UN Security Council would now take command of finding a resolution to the situation.

“An end to the war in Syria needs a political solution and the international community must demand that all the actors and states directly engaged in the conflict contribute to the disengagement of military action so that negotiations can begin,” he said.

Christian Tybring-Gjedde, representative for the nationalist Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) in parliament's foreign policy committee, said that he was uncertain whether Trump's decision to strike Syria militarily would achieve the US president's stated goals of ending the conflict.

“I can understand the reaction if the Syrian regime is behind the gas attacks a couple of days ago, but I think this is unwise because it sets in motion something we can't predict the consequences of,” Tybring-Gjedde told NRK.

The Liberal (Venstre) Party's representative in the committee, Trine Skei Grande, said that it was time for the international community to react to the attacks of Assad's regime, but that she thought Trump's method was a “risky” approach.

“If we have now reached a point where we can work together to end this terrible war, and end the attacks of Assad, we must be able to form a peace agreement that includes the Russians. I am unsure whether today's attack will contribute to that,” she told NRK.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the US strike "an act of aggression against a sovereign nation", reports the BBC.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande said in a joint statement that Assad bore “sole responsibility” for the US strike.

The attacks represent the first time during the six-year Syrian conflict that the United States has directly attacked the Assad regime.

Over 400,000 people have died since hostilities began in 2011.

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