“All evidence” points to the Bashar al-Assad regime as being behind Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack in northwestern Syria, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
Johnson’s remarks came upon his arrival to Brussels for an EU/UN conference on Syria.
“All the evidence I have seen suggests this was the Assad regime … using illegal weapons on their own people,” Johnson said.
Over 100 civilians were killed and some 500 more injured in a suspected chemical weapons attack by regime forces in the opposition-held Syrian province of Idlib.
Speaking later at the conference, Johnson said Britain and France are calling for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.
“It is impossible for us to ignore… the horrific gas attack that took place yesterday,” Johnson said.
And although we can’t be certain yet, this attack bears all the hallmarks of an action by the regime that has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people.
“We must accept the paradox of this meeting today. We’re all here together trying to assemble a vast multi-billion sticking plaster for Syria when there are still governments here supporting the Assad regime which is inflicting those wounds, caused by weapons that were banned internationally a century ago,” said Johnson, implicitly criticising Russian support for the Assad regime.
He said: “One in two Syrians is dead or displaced. There is no other conflict like it in the world.”
Accepting millions of refugees
Johnson also praised efforts by Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan to give shelter to Syrian refugees.
“We are all humbled by the contribution and sacrifice of our friends who have spoken earlier today from Lebanon, from Jordan and of course Turkey, who set a moral example to the world by their willingness to accept millions of refugees,” he said.
Turkey hosts about 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. The country has spent around $25 billion on helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in early 2011.
Also underlining the necessity of a permanent ceasefire, Johnson said the Syrian “regime is preventing the UN from delivering aid to millions of Syrians, besieging over 475,000 people with the aim of starving them into submission.”
Britain’s top diplomat told the conference the international community needs to work together for a peace deal in Syria.
He said: “The people of Syria are today paying a price for our collective inaction over the last five years and the decisions we took. We cannot now undo those mistakes but we can and we must work together to alleviate their suffering, to help Syria’s neighbours and to prepare Syria for the moment when peace finally returns for the sake of future generations of Syrians and indeed for the entire world.”