8 European nations urge Syria, Iran to uphold Idlib ceasefire

Eight European countries are urging Syrian allies Russia and Iran not to break the ceasefire in Syria's last major rebel-held province of Idlib, a move that would risk the lives of millions of civilians.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN warns Syria against using chemical weapons

A UN team takes samples from the scene of a suspected chemical weapon attack, in the Damascus countryside in August 2013. (United Media Office of Arbeen/Associated Press)

Eight European countries are urging Syrian allies Russia and Iran to uphold the ceasefire in Syria's last major rebel-held province of Idlib and avoid putting at risk the lives of two million adults and one million children.

In a statement Thursday, the eve of a meeting in Tehran between the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which supports Syria's opposition, the eight nations warned that a full-scale military offensive in Idlib would have "potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians."

Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom also urged Syria "to exercise restraint."

In Washington, the new U.S. representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, told reporters there is "lots of evidence" that chemical weapons are being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib, adding that any attack on the last big rebel enclave would be a "reckless escalation."

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, appeared to echo that sentiment. 

United States Ambassador Nikki Haley addresses a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday. (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

"If the past is any guide, the Syrian and Russian attempts to blame others for the use of chemical agents is an indication that the Syrian regime still believes it can use these horrific weapons with impunity and… may be preparing to use these horrific weapons in future attacks," Haley, who chaired a Security Council meeting on Thursday about chemical weapons use in Syria, said in a statement. 

"No one — I repeat — no one is fooled.‎"

She went on to remind the Syrian regime that the U.S. has responded twice in the past 18 months to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and warned "you don't want to bet against the United States responding again."

The eight European nations say that "only a UN-led political process can bring a solution to the conflict that respects the freedom and the dignity of all Syrian people."

A boy tries on an improvised gas mask amid fears of a chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, on Sept. 3. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

With files from Reuters, CBC News