The US Defence Secretary has said there is no doubt that the Syrian government was responsible for a poison gas attack last week on a rebel-held town, adding that it had used chemical weapons several times in the past.
During a press conference in Washington on Tuesday, James Mattis told reporters that independent authorities had documented and concluded the use of chemical weapons in an air strike on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.”There is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself,” Mattis said.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied that Syrian aircraft had carried out the April 4 attack, which killed dozens of people, including many children.
“In response to the attack,” US national security officials came up with “diplomatic and military options” presented to US President Donald Trump, said Mattis, who added that he also spoke with Washington’s allies.
“The National Security Council considered the international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, the Syrian regime’s repeated violations of that international law and the inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed,” he said.
“We determined that a measured military response could best deter the regime from doing this again.”
Mattis said the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad should “think long and hard” before making such a reckless attack again.Mattis also said that the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group is still the main focus of the US in Syria and remains on track.
Mattis’ comments came just after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Russia, a key ally of Assad that has been bombing rebel-held areas in Syria since September 2015.Tillerson is the first senior US official to visit Moscow sinceTrump took office promising to seek closer cooperation with Russia, but as he arrived relations were already tense.
‘Assad family’s reign coming to an end’
Earlier on Tuesday, Tillerson said he hoped Russia would abandon its support for Assad because actions such as the Khan Sheikhoun attack have stripped him of all legitimacy.
Tillerson made the remarks at the conclusion on Tuesday in Italy of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) and “like-minded” countries.
“It is clear to us the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” he said shortly before leaving the Tuscan city of Lucca for Moscow.
“We hope that the Russian government concludes that they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar al-Assad.”
Russia has also rejected the accusations that Assad used chemical arms against his own people while stating that it will not cut its ties with him.
Source: News agencies