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Mattis: Assad Heeded US Warning Against Chemical Weapons

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discusses the partnership between the U.S. and Germany during an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch, Germany, June 28, 2017.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that Syria appears to have heeded a U.S. warning to not to use chemical weapons.

"It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis said, referring to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it had not launched any new chemical attacks.

A statement late Monday from White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that if government forces carry out another chemical attack, "he and his military will pay a heavy price." The statement came after American intelligence said it had identified "potential preparations" for another chemical attack in Syria - allegations which the Syrian government denied.

The April 4th chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria killed over 80 people and drew harsh criticism from governments abroad, including the United States.

Speaking from a ceremony in Germany honoring the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, Mattis also called out Russian president Vladimir Putin for causing international "mischief".

Mattis said the Russian people's "leader making mischief beyond Russian borders — will not restore their fortune or rekindle their hope."

Mattis also stated that the U.S. remains committed to NATO - something of which he has repeatedly assured European allies, despite President Donald Trump's occasional bashing of the organization, particularly in regards to other countries paying their "fair share".

Germany's defense secretary Ursula von der Leyen also praised the transatlantic bond, and spoke in favor of Germany spending two percent of GDP to meet NATO pledges.

"Being partners, we need to have a fair burden sharing within NATO. That means we Germans need to do more for our security," she said.

Shortly after meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel last month, Trump had reiterated an accusation that Germany does not pay its fair share of dues in NATO.