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Tillerson Joins Other Diplomats, Signs Onto Statement Condemning Syrian Chemical Weapons

FILE - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and several other diplomats signed onto a statement Wednesday condemning the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens.

Tillerson, along with the foreign ministers from France, Germany and Britain, released the joint statement. It followed a recent report from United Nations investigators that found the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad violated international law when it used sarin gas in the rebel-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this year.

“We condemn this heinous act and demand that the Syrian regime immediately cease any and all use of chemical weapons and finally declare to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons all chemical weapons that it possesses,” the statement reads.

Tillerson and the other diplomats said it is important to continue looking into instances of chemical weapons use in Syria and urged the U.N. to maintain the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) it established with the OPCW.

According to the diplomats’ statement, JIM investigators have reported that another sarin attack “more than likely” took place in the Syrian town of Al Lataminah just a week prior to the attack at Khan Sheikhoun.

Khan Sheikhoun, Syria
Khan Sheikhoun, Syria

“A robust international response is now essential to hold those responsible to account, seek justice for the victims of these abhorrent attacks and to prevent such attacks from happening again,” the diplomats wrote.

Just last month, prior to the release of the latest chemical weapons report, Russia used its U.N. veto to block a resolution extending the mandate of the JIM investigators.

The findings in the report were politically embarrassing for Russia, a staunch ally of the Syrian president.

In Syria, the government is the only party to the conflict that possesses air capabilities. Russia had previously suggested that the gas was released from a bomb on the ground and not in the air.