Australia is offering moral support for a U.S. military strike in Syria while New Zealand said on Monday it needs more information after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry personally called each country's Foreign Minister.
Mr. Kerry has been trying to secure at least some international support for a potential U.S. strike after accusing the Syrian government of launching a chemical weapons attack.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr's spokesman Patrick Low said on Monday that Mr. Kerry called last week and that Australia supports the U.S. taking action. He said Mr. Kerry didn't ask for military assistance and Australia didn't offer it.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Mr. Kerry called Foreign Minister Murray McCully over the weekend and that New Zealand wants to assess all steps taken ahead of a strike before stating its position.
The U.S. doesn't have widespread support internationally for military action. So far, only France has indicated it would join a U.S. strike. The Parliament of key ally Britain last week rejected a vote endorsing military action.
Syrians, world weigh in on U.S. debate for military action
The international community weighed in on Sunday on the anticipated debate before the U.S. Congress on military action in Syria, with supporters of the Syrian opposition urging military action and allies of the Syrian government critical of any such moves.
As expected, the Syrian opposition called on the U.S. Congress to authorize U.S. President Barack Obama’s request for military action against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
“The National Coalition calls on members of the U.S. Congress to assume their historic responsibility towards the Syrian people, and stop the regime’s killing machine,” the group said.
The coalition’s head also urged the Arab League, which at its annual summit in March gave Syria’s seat in the 22-member bloc to the opposition coalition, to endorse the possible strike.
“I stand in front of you asking for your strong and effective support for a military strike against the killing and terrorism machine of the regime against the people,” Ahmed al-Jarba said, addressing the opening session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo.
However, the Ministers stopped short of endorsing military intervention in their closing statement, and only called on the United Nations and the international community to take the “deterrent and necessary measures against the perpetrators of the heinous crime.” They also reiterated their position of blaming the Assad regime for the attack, which took place August 21 in two sites near Damascus.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, whose country is a staunch supporter of the rebels seeking to oust Mr. Assad, said that the Syrian regime “crossed all the red lines” and must be stopped, without explicitly supporting a military intervention.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said that a political solution is the only way to end the conflict in Syria.
A vote on a potential U.S.-led strike on Syria is expected sometime after Congress returns from summer recess on September 9.
France, one of the strongest supporters of an armed response, said Sunday it would await the outcome of the U.S. debate and would not take unilateral action.
“France will not go it alone,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told Europe1 radio. “A coalition is necessary.” But Valls reaffirmed France’s belief that action was necessary.
“The chemical massacre at Damascus must not remain unpunished. We must bring an end to this regime.” “The worst thing would be to do nothing.” In an attempt to garner public support for action, the French government is also to publish a four-page intelligence report on the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal “in the coming days,” the Journal du Dimanche weekly reported.
Currently, 64 per cent of French public opinion is against military action against Syria.
Mr. Assad meanwhile vowed to continue fighting rebels seeking to oust him and said Syria would counter foreign attacks.
Threats “will not discourage Syria away from ... its fight against terrorism supported by some regional and Western states,” he told Iranian lawmakers in Damascus, according to state media. “Syria ...is capable of facing any external aggression.” Marzieh Afkham,
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman for Syrian ally Iran, said, “The U.S. should act realistically and give priority to diplomatic efforts. As a military option would have no winner, any adventurism should be avoided so as to not let the crisis to further escalate.”
China — which along with Russia has vetoed resolutions at the United Nations to impose sanctions on Damascus — mocked the U.S. president’s decision to seek congressional support. According to Chinese state media, the decision showed Mr. Obama lacked support for military action and is trying to create an “aura of legitimacy.”
In Rome, Pope Francis on Sunday called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in “the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world” next Saturday, Vatican Radio said.
“Never again war!” the pope said. “We want a peaceful world.” Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said a U.S.-led military action against Syria was possible without approval of Congress.
Speaking in an interview with U.S. broadcaster CNN, Mr. Kerry said however that he was convinced the Senate and the House of Representatives would agree with the actions planned by Obama.
Mr. Kerry said in a series of interviews on U.S. television that sarin gas had been used in the chemical attacks.
Meanwhile, U.N. chemical weapons inspectors would begin analysis of samples collected in Syria on Monday, a spokesman said.
Many members of the U.S. Congress welcomed Obama’s decision, but it was unclear whether he would be able to gather enough support.
The decision to seek a debate in Congress follows Thursday’s defeat by the British parliament of a government motion to support military intervention in Syria.
Keywords: Syria conflict, NATO intervention, Syria unrest, UNSC, chemical weapons, Bashar Assad regime, US airstrikes, Syrian rebels, Syria chemical weapons attack, UN Security Council, US interventions, Australia, Arab League resolution