Monday, 16 September 2019

PM: Western bombing in Syria should deter chemical weapons use

17 April 2018

Prague/Karlovy Vary, West Bohemia, April 16 (CTK) - The bombing of Syria by the USA, Britain and France was aimed to deter the use of chemical weapons, Czech PM Andrej Babis (ANO) said on Monday, adding that Europe had made a mistake when it left the region to the influence of Turkey, Russia and Iran.

On Saturday, Babis called the allied bombing inevitable. On Sunday, he said it was a step that solved nothing. Czech rightist opposition has criticised him for changing his mind.

"The attack was to deter the use of chemical weapons. Nevertheless, I believe Europe made a mistake by leaving the region to the political influence of Turkey, Russia and Iran. We should have been more active. Immediately after the inauguration of [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump, we should have tried to bring all players, including Russia, to the negotiating table. Let's hope that all chemical attacks will end now, but I am afraid that this will not solve the Syrian problem as such," Babis, on a visit to the Karlovy Vary region, said.

On Saturday, Babis issued a position clearly siding with the USA, Britain and France and calling their crackdown on the Syrian regime, which attacked civilians with chemical weapons, inevitable.

He also called on the world big powers to negotiate about a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.

After a meeting with President Milos Zeman and facing the criticism of the Communists (KSCM), with whom ANO seeks government cooperation, Babis said on Sunday that a military intervention solves nothing and that it is necessary for the parties involved to sit down at the negotiating table to discuss a solution.

Babis also took a reserved stance on Saturday's statements by Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) and Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (for ANO), who had supported the allied bombing.

"It was not an unanimous position of the government," Babis said.

Opposition Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala on Monday wondered at Babis failing to unite his positions on the Syrian development with Stropnicky and Slechtova before [commenting on it], though all three are from the same party and the same government.

"One cannot believe such dilettantism in foreign policy. Or they did unite their positions but the prime minister is starting to be influenced by the Communists?" Fiala asked.

TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek said he can respect a politician with opinions opposite to his own. "What, however, should one think about a chameleon who supports the allies' air strike on Saturday, receives thanks from them for his support, and who resolutely distances himself from his stance on Sunday?" Kalousek asked.

Zeman said on Sunday that he disagrees with any attacks against a foreign country except those having the mandate from the UN Security Council or aimed against Islamist terror.

In 1999, nevertheless, Zeman, in his capacity as PM, approved NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia, which did not have a UN mandate.

Commenting on the Syrian air strikes on social networks during the weekend and on Monday, Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek accused Czech journalists and NGO staff of welcoming a war. He indicated that a part of Czech society longs for "a lethal conflict between the USA and Russia."

According to server, Ovcacek's superior, which is Presidential Office director Vratislav Mynar, will study his statements and discuss them with him.

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