World responds to suspected chemical attack in Syria, as death toll reaches 72
A civil defence member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. Photograph: (Reuters)
Reactions to the news of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, which so far has killed 72 people, have unsurprisingly come gushing in from around the world.
Britian and France on Wednesday both renewed their call for Assad to go during an international conference on Syria, which the European Union convened in Brussels in a bid to shore up stalled peace talks between Assad and his rivals
Britiain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said, "This is a barbaric regime that has made it impossible for us to imagine them continuing to be an authority over the people of Syria after this conflict is over.
The UK and France have blamed Assad for the attack.
Russia said it believed the toxic gas had leaked from a rebel chemical weapons depot struck by Syrian bombs, setting the stage for a diplomatic collision at the Security Council.
Germany on Wednesday accused Russia and Iran of carrying some responsibility for the suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
"The federal government sees responsibility lying with Russia and Iran as allies of the Assad regime," a German government spokeswoman told a regular news conference in Berlin. "We are convinved that without their massive military support the regime would have long ago had to agree to serious negotiations about a political solution," she added.
Turkey has reminded Russia and Iran of their responsibilities in preventing violations of a ceasefire in Syria, Turkey's foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Turkey had made representations to the Russian and Iranian embassies in Ankara over Tuesday's attack in the rebel-held province of Idlib, foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said in a statement.
The response from the US has been less than clear. In condemning Assad, Trump did not say how he would respond. The attack came a week after Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN envoy Nikki Haley said their focus was on defeating Islamic State in Syria rather than pushing Assad out.
"Under Obama, we agreed that Assad had to go, but now it is unclear where the Trump position lies," said a senior EU diplomat.
Pope Francis said he was horrified by the suspected chemical weapons attack. To the tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square he expressed his "firm deploration of the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday," and said he was praying for "the defenceless victims, including many children".
Francis appealed to "the consciences of those who hold political power, both at the local and international levels so that these tragedies end."
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said: "The need for humanitarian aid and the protection of Syrian civilians has never been greater. The humanitarian appeal for a single crisis has never been higher."
Hours before the Brussels conference, Guterres had said, "We have been asking for accountability on the crimes that have been committed and I am confident the Security Council will live up to its responsibilities".
(WION with inputs from Reuters)
The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons (Reuters)