Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday denounced the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria and said "Russia ultimately bears responsibility" for the victims because it has enabled President Bashar Assad.
But more than nine months after President Trump ordered airstrikes on a Syrian air base after it deployed chemical weapons, yet another use of the internationally-banned weapons would be a sign of how intractable the conflict has become and how little influence the USA has to shape events in the country.
The French ministry said that the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons "in no way intends to replace existing international mechanisms, nor does it plan to conduct its own investigations".
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"Only yesterday more than 20 civilians, mostly children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack", Tillerson said after attending a conference on chemical weapons in Paris.
Such an assault, if confirmed, would be among the first in Syria since the dissolution two months ago of the United Nations Security Council's panel for investigating who is responsible for chemical weapons use in the war. He added that the incident raised "serious concerns" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was continuing to use chemical weapons against his own people.
"You will see a day of reckoning for your crimes against humanity", he said.
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"There is simply no denying that Russian Federation, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the USA as a framework guarantor". In those remarks, he reiterated U.S. support for a UN-led political process the Trump administration believes will ultimately result in Assad's removal from power. "But we face obstruction by several countries".
Assad has waged a almost seven-year-long civil war against Syrian opposition groups, which has decimated large parts of the country and created a humanitarian catastrophe of historic proportions. Tillerson said Tuesday there is evidence the regime continues to hold chemical weapons. Most notably, the Trump administration launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase last April over reports of a chemical weapons attack in northwestern Syria.
If it can not support a future Security Council resolution to that end, it should abstain, Tillerson said. In November, Russia vetoed the renewal of a United Nations body that had investigated chemical use in Syria.
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