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Turkey’s Erdogan welcomes U.S., allied strike on Syria chemical weapons sites

April 14, 2018 GMT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has clashed with the Trump administration over its handling of the Syrian civil war, on Saturday praised the allied mission ordered by President Trump to take out key chemical weapons sites in neighboring Syria.

“With the joint operation by U.S., U.K. and France on Saturday, the Syrian regime received the message that its massacres wouldn’t be left unanswered,” Mr. Erdogan told his ruling AK Party supporters in an Istanbul meeting.

“The innocent Syrian people should have been defended long ago,” he added, according to a report from the Reuters news agency.

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Turkey, a NATO ally, has long opposed Syrian President Bashar Assad, but in recent months has moved closer to Iran and Russian in seeking to end the seven-year civil war across its border. The U.S. and Turkey have clashed directly over American military support for Syrian Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State. Ankara claims the Syrian Kurds have links to militant Kurdish groups inside Turkey that have long battled the central government.

Turkish troops have launched their own incursion into northern Syria to flush out U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, putting Turkey on a potential collision course with some 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria in the fight against ISIS.

Russian and Iran have already condemned the allied attack on Syria launched early Saturday morning.

“Today’s dawn attack on Syria is a crime. I clearly declare that the president of the United States, the president of France and the British prime minister are criminals,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech, according to his Twitter account.

“They will not benefit [from the attack] as they went to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the past years and committed such crimes and did not gain any benefits,” the Iranian leader added.

Russia, which has also provided critical military support to the Assad regime, has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on the strikes and said it would consider supplying its S-300 missile systems to Syria to defend against future attacks.

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