News World Malcolm Turnbull says Assad ‘has to go’ as UN security council meets
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Malcolm Turnbull says Assad ‘has to go’ as UN security council meets

Mr Turnbull, speaking to reporters in Papua New Guinea, said Assad's crimes 'surely disqualifies' him from a continuing role in Syria. Photo: AAP
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has to go” in the wake of the fatal chemical weapons attack that killed up to 80 civilians on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference in Papua New Guinea on Saturday where he was marking the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, Mr Turnbull said the role of Assad was under serious question.

“I have grave doubts as to whether Assad can have any role in securing peace for Syria,” Mr Turnbull said.

“I have grave doubts as to whether he can have any continuing role in the settlement. The crimes he has committed against his own people are so enormous.”

“His actions, his horrendous, criminal actions, gassing women and children, babies, that surely disqualifies him from a continuing role.”

In response to the deadly chemical weapons attack, the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the government-controlled Shayrat base from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Friday.

Mr Turnbull called US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch missiles against the Syrian airbase a “swift and just” response.

“This was a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response,” Mr Turnbull said.

UN Security Council meets

Meanwhile, at a heated United Security Council meeting on Friday, Russia’s deputy UN envoy Vladimir Safronkov condemned the “illegitimate” US strike in Syria and warned of serious consequences to international stability.

Mr Safronkov described the attacks as an 'attempt to distract attention from the many victims amongst the peaceful population in Iraq and Syria caused by unilateral actions'.
Mr Safronkov described the attacks as an ‘attempt to distract attention from the many victims amongst the peaceful population in Iraq and Syria caused by unilateral actions’.

In response, Mr Turnbull said the Russian Government had a real responsibility to ensure that it’s “client”, the Assad regime, complied with international law and the rules of war to not use chemical weapons.

“The fact is that there is a solemn obligation on Russia too to play its part in bringing this conflict to an end.

“The Assad government gave a commitment not to use chemical weapons. It said it had abandoned them. Now they have broken that commitment. There has been a swift and just response and now it is up to the Security Council, it’s up to Russia in particular, to bring this conflict to an end,” Mr Turnbull said.

Ambassador Haley said the United States took a very measured step that was 'fully justified' when it fired missiles at a Syrian air field.
Ambassador Haley said the United States took a very measured step that was ‘fully justified’ when it fired missiles at a Syrian air field.

US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, said they were “prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary,” she told the UN Security Council on Friday.

“The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used. It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons,” Ms Haley said.

Mr Turnbull did not confirm if the Australian Government was willing to be a part of the strikes against Assad, but said he would continue to work with the country’s allies to see resolution.

“As you can imagines 59 missiles is a very substantial attack on that airfield but we are not at war with the Assad regime and the United States have made it clear that they are not seeking to overthrow the Assad regime,” Mr Turnbull said.

Australian Minister for Defence Marise Payne spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Saturday before heading to the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting.

Ms Payne said the US strike was designed to limit the regime’s ability to conduct further chemical warfare on its own people.

She confirmed Australian assets were not involved in the operation with Australia’s Air Task Group confined to operations in eastern Syria.

— with agencies