MOSCOW/Islamabad - The US strikes against Ash Sha’irat airbase in the Syrian Idlib province was an act of foreign intervention, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told Russian news agency, Sputnik, on Wednesday.

On April 6, the United States conducted a missile strike against the Syrian government’s Ash Sha’irat airbase in the Idlib province. US President Donald Trump claimed that the strike was a response to the alleged chemical weapon attack in Idlib the previous week, an incident which the White House blames on Damascus without providing evidence.

"We are against any foreign intervention in Syria. This was a foreign intervention. The Syrians should be left to decide what government they want to have. I think it is their fundamental right," Asif said on the sidelines of the ongoing VI Moscow Conference on International Security, following a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The minister also warned against the attempts to change the government in Syria by military means. "This policy of regime change has not clearly contributed to peace in the Middle East," Asif said.

Commenting on the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, the minister said that a thorough investigation was needed. "It is for the international investigators to decide whether it was an attack or not," Asif said.

Addressing the Moscow conference, Khawaja Asif warned that the Kashmir issue was a strategic flashpoint in South Asia and if left unresolved, it had the potential to threaten stability and peace of the entire region.

He stressed on the importance of the conference to manage shared challenges including terrorism, socio-economic inequality, climate change, demography as well as the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa.

The minister said that the 21st century was an era of multiple power centres, renewed economic interdependencies and realignment of politico-strategic alliances.

He delivered the speech during the opening ceremony of the conference, said a statement issued in Islamabad. He thanked the defence ministry of the Russian Federation for hosting the 6th Moscow security conference.

INP adds: Kh Asif said that Pakistan expects the Afghan government to do more in countering terrorist groups responsible for carrying out cross-border attacks and impacting Pakistan.

The agenda of conference includes combating terrorism as well as security in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Other high-level officials are also accompanying the minister. Kh Asif said, "We expect the Afghan government to take more effective measures against the perpetrators responsible for various terror activities in Pakistan."

He underlined that presence of terrorist networks on the Afghan border had been cleared during special operations carried out by Islamabad.

Ongoing operations by Pakistan have been "extremely successful," which have been acknowledged by the international community, he added.

"I would like to share that our military operations currently include comprehensive economic uplift strategy in disturbed areas… We are consolidating our gains under the comprehensive National Action Plan," the defence minister noted.

Asif also stressed that Islamabad remained committed to playing a role in achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan and fully supported the Afghan-led peace process. The two countries share a long porous border which is regularly crossed by militants that carry out attacks in both countries.

Islamabad and Kabul accuse each other of harbouring the militants and Pakistan often repeats calls on Kabul to secure the border and take firm action against cross-border incidents.

In February, Pakistan blamed Afghanistan for failing to crack down on militants that plotted a string of suicide attacks in Pakistan that killed scores of people.



Monitoring Desk/Our staff reporter