France, US: Common Response in Case of Syria Chemical Attack

Published June 28th, 2017 - 01:00 GMT
Footage of a handshake between US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron ahead of a NATO summit. (AFP/Mandel NGAN)
Footage of a handshake between US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron ahead of a NATO summit. (AFP/Mandel NGAN)

French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to work together with US President Donald Trump to formulate a common response in case of a new chemical attack in Syria.

The leaders came to the agreement during a phone call on Tuesday after the US had earlier sent out a warning to the Syrian regime that it would pay a "heavy price" if it went ahead with such an assault

"They discussed the Syria dossier and the necessity to work on a common response in case of a chemical attack," Macron's office said in a statement, without providing further details.

US officials said they had recently seen activity at Shayrat airfield, which had been targeted by a US cruise missile strike on 6 April in retaliation to a deadly chemical weapons attack blamed on President Bashar al-Assad.

French defence officials and diplomats said no specific information had been passed on to Paris concerning the new reports of activity.

"It seems to be a message to the Russians," one French official told Reuters. "That suits us and fits into Macron's red line on the use of chemical weapons."

Macron said last week that the removal of President Bashar al-Assad is no longer a priority in the Syrian conflict, making the policy official for the first time.

His comments were met with dismay from the Syrian opposition.

The new French leader said that fighting the Islamic State group had to be the international community's number one goal, but repeated his warning that the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" and that France would act alone in response if necessary.

Syria's war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests that spiralled into a complex and devastating conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people.

Russia is flying a bombing campaign in Syria in support of Assad, while the US is heading a coalition mainly targeting Daesh "the Islamic State group".


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