World Bulletin/News Desk
Syria said on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had told the Damascus government that the United States and its allies were about to attack fighters in Syria, hours before the air strikes took place.
Damascus, which had said any air strikes on Syria must have its approval, did not condemn the attacks launched by the United States with the help of Gulf states and Jordan against ISIL and al Qaeda-affiliated militants.
A Syrian analyst interviewed on tightly-controlled Syrian state TV said the air strikes did not amount to an act of aggression because the government had been notified in advance.
"There is an exodus out of Raqqa as we speak. It started in the early hours of the day after the strikes. People are fleeing towards the countryside," one resident told Reuters by telephone.
In a government statement read out on state TV, the Syrian foreign ministry said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had received a letter from Kerry via the foreign minister of Iraq, whose Shi'ite-led government is a close ally of Damascus.
There was no immediate response from the United States, which has shunned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, describing him as part of the problem.
"The foreign minister received a letter from his American counterpart via the Iraqi foreign minister, in which he informed him that the United States and some of its allies would target (ISIL) in Syria," the foreign ministry said in the statement. "That was hours before the raids started."
In the statement, Damascus vowed to keep up its own campaign against ISIL that has seized large areas of northern and eastern Syria. It said it would continue to target the group in areas hit in the U.S.-led raids on Tuesday.
The U.S. military, in a statement announcing air strikes in Syria, said U.S. forces had also struck ISIL targets in Iraq, "using attack aircraft to conduct four air strikes".
"THERE IS A COMMON ENEMY"
Iraq's national security adviser briefed Assad on efforts to fight ISIL last week, in the first such meeting since the United States launched air strikes on ISIL in Iraq.
The Syrian government said coordination with Iraq was "at its highest levels" and reiterated its willingness to be part of international efforts to combat ISIL.
"Syria confirms that it has fought and continues to fight (ISIL) in Raqaa and Deir al-Zor and other areas," the statement said. "It has not and will not stop fighting the organisation in cooperation with states directly harmed by it - most importantly with Iraq," the statement said.
A senior Lebanese politician with close ties to the Syrian government said the United States would not be able to publicly say it was coordinating with Assad.
"It is certain that if these air strikes are serious, they will strengthen the enemies of (ISIL), at the forefront of whom is the Syrian regime," said the politician.
The analyst interviewed on Syrian state TV said the notification meant the air strikes were neither an act of aggression nor an infringement of Syrian sovereignty.
"All the targets and warplanes were monitored by the Syrian air defence," said the analyst, Ali al-Ahmad. "This does not mean we are part of the joint operations room, and we are not part of the alliance. But there is a common enemy," he said.Last Mod: 23 Eylül 2014, 14:11