The White House said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump was alarmed at reports of a suspected Syrian government chemical attack that has left dozens of people dead.
It blamed the incident in Syria’s Idlib province on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and said it was “reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world”.
A spokesman also said that the attack was the result of President Obama’s “weakness”, after failing to act on his ‘red line’ warning about chemical weapons.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a briefing.
“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”
Sean Spicer said that the chemical attacks in Syria were "a consequence of the last administration’s weakness” https://t.co/FFihjnh0i3— The New York Times (@nytimes) 4 avril 2017
Spicer declined to say what the US administration would do about the attack but added that President Trump had spoken on Tuesday with his national security team about the issue.
In Brussels, where delegates have gathered for an international conference on Syria’s future, the attack was also condemned in the strongest terms.
“Chemical weapons are the worst of the war crimes and whoever is responsible for that must be held accountable,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told a joint news conference with the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura.
Both drew attention to the timing of the attack.
“Every time we have a moment in which the international community is capable of being together – 70 countries tomorrow – there is someone, somehow, that tries to undermine that feeling of hope by producing a feeling of horror and outrage,” de Mistura said.
If reports of the gas attack are confirmed it would be an act of “almost unparalleled cruelty” according to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, visiting his British counterpart Boris Johnson in London.
Johnson added his condemnation.
“If this was proved to be committed by the Assad regime, then it would be another reason to think they are an ‘absolutely heinous outfit’. It is a war crime, as Sigmar has just said,” he told reporters.
Amid calls from Britain and France, the UN Security Council will discuss the incident on Wednesday.
French President Francois Hollande blamed Syrian government forces, saying that President Assad’s allies were emboldening him to act with impunity.