US expresses regret over strike on Syrian troops
New York - The US military said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Daesh group on Saturday.
US Ambassador Samantha Power expressed regret on Saturday over the US-led coalition strike on a Syrian army post, but dismissed Russia's call for an emergency Security Council meeting as a "stunt."
Russia called the urgent meeting to demand an explanation from the United States after the bombing killed at least 62 soldiers in eastern Syria, near the Daesh group-controlled town of Deir Ezzor.
"We are investigating the incident," Power told journalists as the closed door meeting got under way. "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," she added.
Power went on to describe Russia's request for the urgent meeting as a "stunt, replete with moralism and grandstanding," saying Moscow should instead demand a meeting with the Assad regime to press for peace.
In an exchange reminiscent of Cold War-era verbal jousting, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin returned by accusing the United States of violating agreements that it would not target Syrian positions and said the action was a "bad omen" for a US-Russian deal on halting the fighting in Syria.
Asked if the air strike on the Syrian army would kill off the US-Russian deal, Churkin said "this is a very big question mark."
"I do hope that they will find a way to convince us and everybody else that they are serious about political settlement in Syria, serious about fighting terrorists," he said.
The US military said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Daesh group on Saturday.
US Central Command said the strike was immediately halted "when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military."
The Syrian military said the deadly airstrike hit a base in the eastern city of Deir El Zour that is surrounded byDaesh, allowing the extremists to advance and overrun Syrian army positions in the area. Russia's military said it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 soldiers were killed in the air raid and more than 100 wounded. "Coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit," the US military statement said.
A Syrian military spokesman told a briefing early Sunday that the US airstrike destroyed three tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, four mortars and an anti-aircraft gun, Russia's Tass news agency reported. In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by the state news agency Tass as saying that "after today's attack on the Syrian army, we come to the terrible conclusion that the White House is defending the Daesh."
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said it sent an urgent message asking the Security Council to "condemn the US aggression," Tass reported, citing a statement released by Syria's Sana news. - Agencies
The statement claimed five United Statesaircraft took part in the airstrike.