The US envoy to the United Nations has expressed regret for the loss of life in Syria following a coalition airstrike. But she dismissed Russia's call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as a "stunt."
Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, has expressed regret for the loss of life after a coalition-led airstrike in Syria that Russia claims killed more than 60 Syrian government troops.
Speaking at the UN in New York on Saturday, Power confirmed that the US had carried out an airstrike on what it believed to be a position of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group. It halted the operation after it was informed by Russia that Syrian troops may have been hit.
"We are still gathering information at this time but we have been able to confirm that earlier today, the United States struck what we believe to be an ISIL target," Power said, using an alternative acronym for IS.
"We halted the attack when we were informed by Russia that it was possible that we were striking Syrian regime military personnel and vehicles."
Earlier, the Russian army released a statement saying that two F-16 and two A-10 jets with the international anti-jihadi coalition flew into Syrian airspace from Iraq to carry out four airstrikes against Syrian forces surrounded by IS at the Deir el-Zour air base. The statement added that 62 Syrian soldiers were killed and a hundred others were wounded.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said it had sent an urgent message asking the UN Security Council to "condemn the US aggression," according to a report from Syria's SANA official news agency.
At the UN, Power said an investigation was underway. "We are investigating the incident. If we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention and we, of course, regret the loss of life," she said.
Security Council 'stunt'
However, Power has dismissed Russian calls for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council as a "stunt."
"Even by Russia's standards, tonight's stunt, a stunt replete with moralism and grandstanding, is uniquely cynical and hypocritical," Power said. "Since 2011, the Assad regime has been intentionally striking civilian targets with horrifying, predictable regularity. They have besieged civilian areas, prevented lifesaving humanitarian aid from reaching people who are starving to death and dying of illnesses that could be treated with basic medicine which is ripped out of trucks and pocketed by Syrian regime forces.
"And yet in the face of none of these atrocities has Russia expressed outrage, nor has it demanded investigations, nor has it ever called for a Saturday night emergency consultation in the Security Council," Power said.
In response, Russia's envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, accused the US of a "display of heavy-handedness" of an extent he had never experienced before.
Churkin said his US counterpart had told him she was "not interested" in what he had to say, so he decided to leave the room.
In a statement from President Barack Obama's office on Saturday, a senior official said the US would continue to pursue compliance with the ceasefire in Syria at the same time as it continued military action against IS and al-Qaeda.
Aid agencies are still trying to take in supplies to areas, such as Aleppo, where communities have been cut off.
It is unclear what effect the day's events will have on a continuation of the fragile ceasefire, which took effect on Monday.
jm/cmk (AFP, Reuters, AP)