Turkey underlines the importance of finding a political solution in Syria amid threats of US-led air strikes on regime targets.

A member of Syrian regime forces stands guard near destroyed buildings in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria on April 2, 2018.
A member of Syrian regime forces stands guard near destroyed buildings in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria on April 2, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday told Russia and the United States to end their "street fighting" over Syria, saying it was time to put aside a rivalry that risked harming civilians.

"It's street fighting. They are fighting like street bullies. But who is paying the price? It's civilians," Yildirim said in a televised speech in Istanbul.

"Now is not the time for rivalry. It's the time to heal the wounds in the region and to come together," he said.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, speaking in Ankara on Wednesday, also said problems in Syria cannot be resolved through "military means."

“Turkey from the very beginning said conflicts in the region [Syria] must be stopped and problems here could not be resolved through military means," Bozdag told reporters in the capital Ankara.

“We also said a political solution is quite important.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday to brace for American engagement in Syria.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and "smart!", " Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

On Monday, the US president vowed to take action within two days following a suspected chemical attack in Syria's Douma.

Efforts to find a diplomatic solution at the UN Security Council on Tuesday failed, with Washington and Moscow opposing each other's rival motions to set up an international investigation into chemical weapons use.

Russia has meanwhile taken to stronger warnings.

"We would hope that all sides will avoid steps that in reality are not provoked by anything and that could destabilise the already fragile situation in the region," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"The situation is tense," Peskov said, adding that Russia is calling for an "unprejudiced and objective investigation before making judgements" on the suspected use of chemical weapons.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also insisted that smart rockets should be aimed at "terrorists" rather than what Moscow calls the "legitimate government" of Syria, referring to Bashar al Assad's regime. 

Western threats

The United States, Britain and France have argued the incident bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime, which has been blamed for previous attacks by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Both Trump and his defence secretary Jim Mattis abruptly cancelled upcoming travel plans on Tuesday, as the USS Donald Cook – a guided-missile destroyer – moved to within striking range of Syria.

The air traffic control agency Eurocontrol has also released an alert from the European Aviation Safety Agency to flight operators in nearby airspace of "the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours."

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been coordinating closely with Washington, said he would decide on a response "in the coming days."

"Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime's chemical capabilities," he said, insisting he did "not want an escalation."

As it looked to head off the threat of Western strikes, Syria said it had invited the OPCW to visit the site of the alleged attack in Douma, a town in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta that is on the verge of falling to the regime after a long and bloody siege.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies