Syria civil war: John Kerry and Arab leaders agree ‘global red line was crossed’

Ahead of talks with the Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, the US Secretary of State says the world must not stand by as 'silent spectators to slaughter'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has emerged from talks with Arab leaders to say that they all agreed an “international, global red line” was crossed when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly targeted his own people in a chemical weapons attack.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting ministers from countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Mr Kerry said a number had signed up to a G20 statement calling for a “strong response” to the atrocities of 21 August in Damascus.

The US is hoping to build international support for a “targeted” missile strike against Syrian military targets, ahead of the matter going to a vote in the Senate this week.

And the support of the Arab nations could be a vital boost to President Obama’s case for intervention in the Middle East.

Standing alongside his Qatari counterpart Khaled al-Attiya, Mr Kerry said: “All of us agreed - not one dissenter - that Assad's deplorable use of chemical weapons, which we know killed hundreds of innocent people ... this crosses an international, global red line.”

Earlier Mr Kerry had said that the world must not stand by as “silent spectators to slaughter” in Syria.

In a press conference in Paris, Mr Kerry likened avoiding military action to the policy of appeasement in the build-up to the Second World War, saying “this is our Munich moment”.

Over the course of his trans-Atlantic visit so far, European foreign ministers have been keen to offer their support for a “clear and strong response” if the US will wait for the UN to return a report, a State Department official said.

A statement from the EU's foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, described the alleged chemical weapons attack on 21 August in Damascus as a “blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity”.

Information from a wide variety of sources confirmed the chemical attack, according to the statement, and “seems to indicate strong evidence that the Syrian regime is responsible” as it is the only party “that possesses chemical weapons agents and the means of their delivery in a sufficient quantity”.

Addressing reporters alongside the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Mr Kerry said he and President Barack Obama were “exceedingly grateful to have France by our side” in pushing for a “limited” military strike.

“We in the United States know and our French partners know that this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter,” he said. “This is not the time to send a message where doing nothing is far more risky than responding.”

“This is not the time to allow a dictator unfettered use of some of the heinous weapons on earth.”

He called for a “clear and effective response”, saying: “What we are talking about here is a limited military action, one that is aimed squarely at degrading Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons and deterring him from using them again.”

Mr Kerry’s next stop after Paris is London, where on Monday he will be holding talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and UK foreign secretary William Hague before returning to Washington.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, Mr Hague said: “I do believe very strongly that the world must stand up to the use of chemical weapons, and the risks of not doing so are in my view greater than the risks of doing so.

“This issue is about chemical weapons, and it is a bigger issue than Syria… [but] we are not a government that is gung ho about military action.”

He said the talks would cover all the issues around Syria, and particularly what can be done to alleviate the humanitarian crisis which has stemmed from the conflict.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'