World Council of Churches decries escalation of Syria conflict after US air strike

(Photo: © UNHCR)Syrian women and children recently displaced from East Aleppo take shelter at the nearby Al-Mahalij industrial zone in late 2016.

The World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit has urged all parties in the Syrian conflict to cease hostilities and commit to peace talks toward a transitional governance within the framework of international law.

Tveit said he was speaking April 7, in response to U.S. missile attacks on Syria launched overnight in response to bombings, attributed to the Syrian air force, using chemical agents and killing dozens of civilians in the Syrian province of Idlib.

"As we have stressed time and time again, there is no military solution to the situation in Syria," said Tveit.

"The only path to peace for this devastated country is through nonviolent action and peaceful dialogue among the parties to the conflict. Two wrongs - the bombing of civilians with chemical weapons and retaliation with further bombing - do not make a right.

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"They do not advance the interests of the Syrian people, who have already suffered so much; nor do they pave the way for a future of peace," he said.

The American attack on Syria on April 6, unraveled well laid plans by China for a summit meeting with Donald Trump that would present President Xi Jinping as a global leader on par with the U.S. president.

The could see him stealing the spotlight from Xi and putting him in a difficult position: choosing between condoning the kind of unilateral military action that China has long opposed, or rebuking his host, The New York Times speculated.

Xi's dilemma was also acute because China has generally sided with Russia in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and because it worries that Trump might be prepared to order a similar strike on North Korea, Chinese and Western analysts said.

The day before his April 7 statement Tveit had urged the U.N. Security Council to put an end to the impunity of the warring parties by investigating their crimes and establishing mechanisms to ensure that all those responsible are held accountable.

In order for the Security Council to agree on Syria, Russia and the United States need to reach an agreement on the way forward on Syria.

URGENT CALL TO UN SECURITY COUNCIL

"Now, in light of this unilateral response by the U.S. and the risk of this already disastrous conflict escalating and spreading regionally and internationally, I call urgently on the UN Security Council to fulfil its unique collective responsibility for promoting peace and security for all."

"And I call on all Christians and all people of faith around the world" he added, "to join together in prayer for peace and an end to conflict and bloodshed in Syria."

On April 6, after the reports of a horrific chemical weapons attack in the Idlib Governance of Syria, Tveit had called for a cultural shift in the region as he expressed deep sympathy to the families of the victims.

More than 70 people were reported to have died, including 20 children, in the village of Khan Sheikhoun.

"This attack and many other airstrikes have been targeting civilian populations, including vulnerable children and women," said Tveit.

"The World Council of Churches believes that these attack, as well as so many other war crimes, crimes against humanity and unbearable atrocities, are sadly still taking place against an innocent civil population because the culture of impunity is maintained in Syria and the whole region."

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