politics

U.K.'s May Condemns ‘Horrific’ Attack on Civilians in Syria

Updated on
  • U.K. ‘working with allies’ on Syria action after Trump vow
  • Assad, backers should be held to account if responsible: May
Andrew Barden On Syria

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the suspected chemical weapon attack that killed at least 40 Syrian civilians as “horrific” and “reprehensible,” and said the U.K. is “working with allies on any action necessary” after Donald Trump said he’ll decide within two days on U.S. retaliation against Syria.

Speaking in Stockholm on Monday, May said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and allies -- including Russia -- should be held to account if his regime was responsible.

At an earlier media conference in Denmark May had declined to answer when asked if the U.K. was planning any unilateral military response. Her predecessor, David Cameron, was defeated in 2013 when he tried to get Parliament to back military strikes in Syria. Asked again in Sweden if she would ask lawmakers -- currently on vacation -- to return to Parliament to vote on any military action, she repeated her answer that the nation is working to deem what response will be necessary.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday it’s investigating the possible use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria, after photographs emerged of suffocated victims foaming at the mouth. If the involvement of Assad’s forces was confirmed, it would be another example of his “brutal regime,” May told reporters in Denmark. Earlier, her office had called on Russia not to block the probe by the OPCW.

Dozens dead in Syria

Source: Bloomberg

On Sunday Trump said on Twitter that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran “are responsible for backing Animal Assad.” The U.S. president also agreed to coordinate “a strong, joint response” with his French counterpoint, Emmanuel Macron. European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels all of the evidence “led to our strong conviction that it is the Syrian regime that is responsible for a chemical attack.”

Assad Supporters

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said accusations the Syrian government used chemical weapons are “provocation.” May said the international community should look at Assad’s supporters. “Of course, Russia is one of the backers,” she said.

Back in the U.K., opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to directly name Assad or Putin in several comments on the issue, though he condemned the attack as “abominable” and “appalling.”

Corbyn, who has faced repeated criticism from fellow lawmakers for being too supportive of Russia, called for an urgent United Nations investigation into who was responsible for the attack in the town of Douma.

“We cannot have any country, be it Russia or anybody else, manufacturing these weapons and indeed allowing them to be used or encouraging their use,” he said Monday during the launch of Labour’s local election campaign in London.

— With assistance by Ian Wishart, Ilya Arkhipov, and Andrew Atkinson

(Adds May reaction to Trump remarks on Syria from first paragraph.)
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