TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The death of dozens of Syrian soldiers on Saturday in US-led coalition airstrikes endangered a US-Russian brokered ceasefire and prompted an emergency UN Security Council meeting as tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated.
The United States military claimed the coalition stopped the attacks against what it had believed to be Daesh (ISIL) positions in northeast Syria after Russia informed it that Syrian military personnel and vehicles may have been hit.
The United States relayed its “regret” through the Russian government for what it described as the unintentional loss of life of Syrian forces in the strike, a senior Obama administration official said in an emailed statement.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook alleged in an emailed statement that Russian officials did not voice concerns earlier on Saturday when informed that coalition aircraft would be operating in the strike area. Russia denied the claim.
The 15-member Security Council met on Saturday night after Russia demanded an emergency session to discuss the incident and blamed the United States for jeopardizing the Syria deal.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, chastised Russia for the move.
“Russia really needs to stop the cheap point scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them,” Power told reporters.
She said the United States was investigating the airstrikes and “if we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention and we of course regret the loss of life.”
When asked if the incident spelled the end of the Syria deal between Moscow and Washington, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: “This is a very big question mark.”
“I would be very interested to see how Washington is going to react. If what Ambassador Power has done today is any indication of their possible reaction then we are in serious trouble,” Churkin told reporters.
Moscow cited the strikes, which allowed Daesh (ISIL) militants to briefly overrun a Syrian army position near Deir al-Zor airport, as evidence that the United States was helping the terrorist group.
“We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world: That the White House is defending Daesh. Now there can be no doubts about that,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Power said Zakharova should be embarrassed by that claim.
Zakharova said the strikes threatened to undermine the ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, which has been aiding Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, and the United States, which has backed some militant groups.
The Russian Defense Ministry said US jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in four airstrikes by two F-16s and two A-10s coming from the direction of Iraq.
The socalled Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group, cited a military source at Deir al-Zor airport as saying at least 80 Syrian soldiers had been killed.
Syria’s army said the US-led strikes, which took place at around 5 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) were “conclusive evidence” of US support for Daesh, calling them “dangerous and blatant aggression”.
Daesh said via its Amaq news channel it had taken complete control of Jebel Tharda, where the bombed position was located, which would have allowed it to overlook government-held areas of Deir al-Zor, as reported by Reuters.
The city’s airport and some districts have been entirely surrounded by Daesh since last year, with the airport providing their only external access.
However, Russia and Syrian state media said the Syrian army later recaptured positions it had lost. The Observatory monitoring group said at least 20 Daesh fighters were killed in heavy Russian airstrikes during that fighting.
The incident also threatens to undermine proposed joint targeting by the United States and Russia of Daesh and some other terrorist groups across Syria.
By Tasnim News Agency