Syria: 7 diplomatic statements on alleged gas attack

World leaders and foreign ministers have roundly condemned a purported gas attack on the eastern suburbs of Damascus earlier this week but have largely steered clear of calls for direct military intervention. CBC News has compiled statements from seven countries, including Canada, U.S., Russia and Iran.

Several demands for allowing UN inspectors access to area where more than 100 died

More than 100 people were reported to have died after a purported gas attack on the eastern surburbs of Damascus earlier this week.

World leaders and foreign ministers have roundly condemned a purported gas attack on the eastern suburbs of Damascus earlier this week but have largely steered clear of calls for direct military intervention.

Russia joined the chorus of international demands for an investigation into the attack, which opposition groups say killed more than 100 people on Wednesday.

A number of countries have suggested that some type of action be taken if the attack can been confirmed but few details have been offered. 

Here is a look at seven statements from countries that include Canada, the U.S., Russia and Iran:


On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the allegations that chemical weapons had been used by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying, "We, and I know all of our allies, condemn in the strongest possible terms any use of chemical weapons."

"The United Nations, as you know, currently has a team in Syria looking at these various claims and incidents and Canada is supporting that United Nations work." He added Canada will continue working with its allies to determine an appropriate course of action.

His comments echo those by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

"Such reports are extremely concerning, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely with our allies and to seek further information," he said Wednesday.

United States

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the latest incident in Syria during comments aired Friday on CNN.

U.S. President Barack Obama says the belief that America can end the Syrian conflict on its own is 'overstated.' (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

"If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work," he said. "Those are considerations that we have to take into account."

He has previously declared that the use of chemical weapons would constitute a "red line," but the American response to previous reported chemical attacks has been minimal. Obama has approved the shipment of small arms to Syrian opposition forces but there is little evidence that the equipment has arrived.

On Friday, Obama also cautioned against "jumping into" immediate action, saying the U.S. needs to think strategically about its long-term interest and needs to work co-operatively with its allies. He also said the belief that the U.S. can end the Syrian conflict on its own is "overstated."


Russian's foreign ministry called on the Syrian government to allow a UN inspection team to asses the area on the outskirts of Damascus where the alleged chemical weapons attack took place.

"The Russian side called on the Syrian government to co-operate with the UN chemical experts," the ministry said.

Russia, which has been one of Assad's key allies in the international arena, also said Friday that the opposition was preventing UN inspectors from reaching the site of the attack.

"Much-needed signals from the opposition, including its readiness to guarantee the safety and effective work of UN experts on territory controlled by militants, unfortunately are not forthcoming," the ministry said.


British Foreign Secretary William Hague instead suggested forces loyal to Assad are preventing UN officials from reaching the site of the alleged attack, adding that the U.K. would seek a stronger mandate from the UN Security Council if inspectors had not reached the site within days.

"Security council members expressed their support for the UN team to go there," he said. "They haven't yet been able to and already it seems the Assad regime has something to hide — why else have they not allowed the UN team to go there?

"The only possible explanation of what we've been able to see is a chemical attack ... there is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale."

Hague said the attack was "not something that a humane and civilized world" could ignore.


France has offered one of the stronger statements as far as what a confirmed chemical attack ought to mean for the international community but still fell short of calling specifically for direct military intervention. 

"We need a reaction by the international community .... a reaction of force," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. He excluded boots on the ground as an option, though, and declined to be "more precise" on the type of force that could be used. 


Turkey, too, has offered stronger language in its condemnation of the alleged attack.

"Several red lines have been crossed — if sanctions are not imposed immediately, then we will lose our power to deter," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. 

He added he had spoken to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and told him that "the UN must not behave hesitantly anymore, sanctions must now be imposed."


Iran, which is perhaps Syria's staunchest ally, dismissed claims that the Assad regime was behind the purported attack, instead laying blame on opposition forces.

"If the use of chemical weapons is true, it has definitely been carried out by terrorist ... groups, because they have proved in action that they refrain from no crime," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif told his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday, according to a report in Iran's PressTV.

Zarif, who reiterated Iran's objection to the use of chemical weapons during the call, said it made no sense for the Assad regime to carry out the attack, arguing that regime troops have seemingly gained the upper hand against rebels and wouldn't carry out the attack with UN inspectors already in the country.

With files from The Associated Press