Macron vows Syria strike if chemical weapons used

Macron vows Syria strike if chemical weapons used

President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that "France will strike" if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of worldwide treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.

He acknowledged that French intelligence services don't have the necessary proof to this day that "chemical weapons banned by the treaties have been used against civilian populations".

France, like the United States, suspects the Syrian regime but says it does not yet have concrete evidence on the nature and origin of the attacks.

In February 2015, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said 98 percent of chemical weapons declared by Syria had been verified by the OPCW as destroyed and that production sites were being torn down.

Macron also called for an global meeting on Syria, in the region if possible.

Last year, Mr Macron told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line" that would draw an "immediate response" from France. Former US President Barack Obama set out a red line for Syria in 2012, when he warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use, or even the movement, of chemical weapons would trigger US military reprisals. He added that is such proof is found, France will strike the places from where the shipments of chemical weapons are originating.

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The Syrian government strongly denies using chemical weapons and says it does not target civilians.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told local broadcaster BFM TV that "all indications show us today that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas at the moment".

Syria signed the worldwide treaty banning chemical weapons and allowed monitors to destroy its poison gas arsenal after an agreement reached in 2013 to avert USA retaliation for what Washington said was a nerve gas attack near Damascus that killed more than 1,000 people.

France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has struggled to wield influence on Syria.

The vice-president of the Syria Civil Defence, or "White Helmets", responded on Tuesday, saying France should stop talking about red lines and focus on real action.

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