Spotlight: Tension seems slightly defused between Moscow, Washington following U.S. missile strike on Syria

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-14 05:34:51|Editor: Liu

Photo taken on April 12, 2017 shows the United Nations Security Council voting on a draft Security Council resolution at the UN headquarters in New York. Russia Wednesday vetoed a Western draft Security Council resolution on an alleged chemical attack in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, April 13 (Xinhua) -- The tension that has heightened between Moscow and Washington following the later's missile attack on a Syrian air base seems to have been defused, at least slightly, analysts say.

Tension between Russia and the U.S. has heightened following the missile strike launched last Friday by the U.S. against the Shayrat Air Base in central Syria, with Moscow announcing suspending the flight safety agreement with Washington.

The deal ensured flight safety over Syria where both Russian and U.S. planes have been carrying airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) group and other radical groups for years.

The U.S. launched the strike on Syria in retaliation to alleged chemical attack the Syrian air force launched on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The Syrian government categorically denied the accusations, which were read by observers as hasty and couldn't be verified in the short time between the incident in Khan Sheikhoun and the launch of the U.S. missile strike.

Also, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution provided by U.S, Britain and France, amid tension in the venue between the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, and his British counterpart, Matthew Rycroft, over remarks on Syria.

Still, the frenzy of the chemical strike and the possibility of another U.S strike are now slim, with observers saying the administration of President Bashar al-Assad, and his allies, Russia and Iran, well-absorbed the U.S. strike through a diplomatic attack in the UN Security Council with the Russian veto.

The first sign of the decreasing tension is the visit by the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow.

Ahead of his arrival, the Kremlin officially announced that President Vladimir Putin wasn't going to meet with the American official, in an apparent dismay with the U.S. strike.

However, Tillerson and Putin met during the visit, and right afterward, Russia said it re-activated the flight safety agreement over Syria.

Maher Ihsan, a Syrian political analyst, said that Putin wouldn't have met the U.S. official if it wasn't for new understandings reached between Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, ahead of Tillerson's meeting with Putin.

The details of the new understandings were not made public, but Syrian foreign ministry officials were invited by Russia and will hold meetings in Moscow on Thursday, following the meeting between the U.S. official and Putin.

The analyst also pointed out to the new interview of President Donald Trump, whose administration announced recently that Assad shouldn't have any role in future Syria.

Trump said that the U.S. is not "insisting" on removing Syrian President Assad from power, adding that peace in Syria is not impossible with Assad in power.

"Are we insisting on it? No. But I do think it's going to happen at a certain point," Trump said, adding that it's not impossible for peace with Assad still in power. "I think it's hard to imagine. I wouldn't use the word impossible. I think the word impossible is not right. But it does seem like you certainly wouldn't be off to a good start."

For his part, President Assad said in an interview with the AFP published on Thursday that the chemical attack was "100 percent fabrication."

The president stressed that his army had given up all its chemical weapons, adding that Syrian military power was not affected by the U.S. strike.

"Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," Assad said in his interview.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Ashaqar, another analyst, said that Russia and the United States may have agreed on allowing inspection to take place and probe the alleged chemical attack.

The superpowers may have also discussed, or, agreed on paving the way for new negotiations on Syria.

He added that Syria after the U.S. strike will not be the same as before the strike, with Trump administration sending a message that the U.S. will have a say in how could the crisis be resolved in Syria.