Obama: Syrian Chemical Attacks Threaten Region, Globe
Chemical weapons attacks in Syria are not just a tragedy in that country, but also pose a threat to regional and global peace and stability, President Barack Obama said in St. Petersburg, Russia, today.
At a news conference following the G-20 summit, Obama said the Syrian regime’s chemical attack on its own people threatens to unravel the almost century-old ban against using such weapons.
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The president said the Syrian government’s attack killed civilians, making this more than an esoteric subject. “Over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children,” Obama said. “This is not something we've fabricated. This is not something that we are … using as an excuse for military action.”
The Syrian attack threatens Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel, and threatens to further destabilize the Middle East, the president said. The actions also increase the likelihood that these weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of terror groups, he added.
“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations, that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence,” Obama said. “That’s not the world that we want to live in.”
G-20 leaders were unanimous that there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21, Obama said, and also were unanimous that the chemical weapons ban is important. Where there is a division in the G-20 has to do with the United Nations, he added.
“You know, there are number of countries that just as a matter of principle believe that if military action is to be taken, it needs to go through the U.N. Security Council,” he said. “It is my view … that given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action.”
In a joint statement released today, the leaders of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom joined with the United States in calling for “a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.”
Obama said he was elected to end wars, not to start them. “I’ve spent the last four and a half years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people,” he said. “But what I also know is that there are times where we have to make hard choices if we’re going to stand up for the things that we care about. And I believe that this is one of those times.”
The president announced he will address the American people from the White House about Syria on Sept. 10.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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