Violence in Syria has escalated into what the Red Cross calls a civil war. Activists say at least 18,000 people have died since the uprising began in March last year. The government of Bashar al-Assad, increasingly losing territory to rebel fighters, blames “terrorists” and “armed gangs” for the unrest, while the opposition and other nations have accused Assad’s forces of crimes against humanity.
Any use of chemical or bacterial weapons by government forces in Syria would trigger a “massive and lightning fast” response from the West, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday.
“We talk about this, in particular with our American and British partners, and follow it closely on a day-to-day basis.
“Our response … would be massive and lightning fast,” Fabius told BFM television, saying chemical weapons were a “big, big risk” in the Syrian crisis.
Paris and Washington have said that despite the deadlock at the United Nations Security Council over taking firm action to stem the crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s army on a 17-month-old uprising, the use of chemical weapons would be justification for a military intervention.
Syria acknowledged in July that it had chemical and biological weapons, but said that it would only use them in case of a foreign military intevention.
The announcement prompted US President Barack Obama to threaten “enormous consequences” if Damascus even moved such weapons in a menacing way. Asked whether Western powers agreed on what form a response to the use of chemical weapons could take, Fabius said he believed they would be united.
“Russia has been very firm on this point and the Chinese have the same position,” he added.