Russia summons Belgian envoy in row over Syria air strike

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday it had summoned the Belgian ambassador to complain about what it said was Belgium’s “stubborn denial” of allegations that Belgian military jets had killed civilians in an air strike near Aleppo in Syria.

The Russian Defence Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry say two Belgian F-16 jets bombed a settlement in Aleppo province on Oct. 18 and killed six civilians, a charge Belgium says is false.

Moscow has held up the alleged incident as an example of what it complains are the West’s double standards when it comes to condemning air strikes on civilians in Syria, something the Russian air force has regularly been accused of but denies.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Alex Van Meeuwen, Belgium’s ambassador to Moscow, to hand over what it said was Moscow’s evidence backing up its accusations and to express its disbelief over what it called the “continuing stubborn Belgian denial” of the bombing allegations.

Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said in a statement on Thursday that Russia had fabricated the evidence against his country to falsely accuse the Belgian air force.

He demanded Moscow issue a formal retraction of what he said was “a groundless and unsubstantiated allegation.”

Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Christian Lowe