After a feverish campaign to win over the US Congress and the US public for military strikes against Syria, US President Barack Obama said he would give diplomacy more time to rid the country of its chemical weapons arsenal that Washington says was used to gas and kill more than 1,400 people. He did not say how long he would wait.
While stepping back from what looked to be a certain defeat in his bid for congressional support for a strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military, Obama still spent most of his 16-minute White House address to the US on Tuesday night making the case for punishing the Syrian regime as a deterrent to further use of chemical weapons and as a warning to other countries.
“The images from this massacre are sickening. Men, women, and children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk,” Obama said.
However, he said he would give a diplomatic proposal by Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, a try.
The diplomatic deal that is under discussion, with al-Assad’s agreement, would put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control for destruction. Obama has sent US Secretary of State John Kerry to Geneva to meet with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov today to work out details.
However, Obama said he has ordered the military to remain prepared to carry out attacks.
Separately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said the Republic of China government supports all international efforts and actions to ban the use of chemical weapons.
The ministry was responding to a joint statement issued by11 of the G20 member nations last week calling for a strong international response to the Aug. 21 chemical attack.
“We condemn the horrific chemical weapons attack based on respect for human rights,” the ministry said in a statement.
Left unchallenged, such use of chemical weapons will increase the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons, the G20 statement said.
The ministry also urged Damascus and rebel groups to resolve their dispute peacefully.
The ministry said it looks forward to seeing peace restored in Syria as soon as possible so that the 7 million displaced Syrians can return to their homes.
The government has provided prefabricated housing units for refugees who have fled to Jordan, as well as five brand-new rescue vehicles to help provide aid to the refugees, the ministry said.
Also yesterday, UN investigators said in a report that Syrian forces were almost certainly responsible for two massacres in May last year in which up to 450 civilians were killed.
The report documented eight mass killings in all, attributing all but one to regime forces, but said both government and rebel fighters had committed war crimes.
Additional reporting by Staff writer, with CNA