Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts after their meeting on Syria issues at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on April 4, 2018. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)
MOSCOW, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Moscow will not accept "provocation and speculation" around the latest suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, the Kremlin said.
Putin made the remarks during a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a Kremlin statement.
"The two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria, including chemical attack accusations made by a number of Western states against official Damascus. Russia's position - that it is unacceptable to use this as an opportunity for provocation and speculation - was conveyed," the statement read.
On Saturday, local activists said the Syrian forces used chlorine gas in an attack against Douma, the last rebel-held area in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, killing at least 40 people. The accusation was strongly denied on Sunday by the Syrian government.
In the meantime, U.S. President Donald Trump in his Twitter account accused Putin, Russia and Iran responsible for the attack due to their backing of "Animal Assad".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that the United States and their allies are using provocations in order to maintain their presence in Syria.
"Experts agree that these players, primarily the American coalition and the U.S. itself, do not intend leaving, and leaving Syria to others, as U.S. President Donald Trump said, but they plan to consolidate their positions there for a very long time," Lavrov said at a press conference.
At the end of March, Trump said in an address to his supporters that after the destruction of Islamic State (IS) terrorist group the United States planned to "be coming out of Syria like very soon" and "let the other people take care of it now."
But on Sunday, Trump spoke over the phone with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, and both sides agreed on a "strong, joint response" to the attack, according to the White House.
Lavrov recalled that Russia and Syria have repeatedly warned that a serious provocation was being prepared in Syria with the aim of accusing Damascus of using toxic agents against civilians.
He said Moscow supported an "honest and immediate" investigation of the incident, as Russian military and Syrian Red Crescent representatives visited the place of the supposed attack and did not find any traces of the use of chemical substances against civilians there.
Lavrov said that Monday's attack against a Syrian military airfield also required an investigation. He stopped short of attributing the attack to any party.
"There were a lot of reports on who was flying there," he said.
Russian media quoted Monday a Russian Defense Ministry report that two Israeli F-15 war planes carried out strikes against T4 (Tiyas) airfield near Homs in central Syria.
It said Israeli jets conducted the strikes from Lebanese air space, and Syrian air defense systems shot down five out of eight missiles.
The report was not available on the official Defense Ministry website or on its social networks pages.