Fears of a military confrontation between Russia and the West ran high on Thursday but US President Donald Trump cast doubt over the timing of his threatened strike on Syria in response to a reported poison gas attack on a rebel enclave.
“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” said Trump in his latest early morning tweet, reports Reuters.
That appeared a day after he tweeted that missiles “will be coming” after the April 7 chemical weapons attack alleged to have killed dozens of people, and lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to convene a special cabinet meeting at 1430 GMT to weigh whether Britain should join the United States and France in a possible military action.
May recalled ministers from their Easter holiday to debate action over what she has cast as a barbaric poison gas attack by Syrian government forces on civilians in the formerly rebel-controlled town of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus.
There were signs, though, of a global effort to head off a dangerous conflict pitting Russia against the West. The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the United States, created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.
“The situation in Syria is horrific, the use of chemical weapons is something the world has to prevent,” Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis said on Thursday morning.
“But also it’s a very, very delicate circumstance and we’ve got to make this judgement on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought-through basis.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would decide whether to strike Syrian government targets after the reported attack by internationally banned chemical munitions in Douma once all the necessary information had been gathered.
“We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective,” Macron said, adding that all the necessary verifications had to be carried out first.
He said he would also strive to prevent an escalation of conflict across the Middle East.