China backs probe into suspected Syria chemical attack; Gulf states condemn incident

The United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria at the UN headquarters in New York, US, on April 9, 2018.
The United Nations Security Council meeting on Syria at the UN headquarters in New York, US, on April 9, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/DUBAI (AFP) - China said on Monday (April 9) that it supports an investigation into a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian rebel-held town of Douma that has provoked global outrage.

US President Donald Trump and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have vowed a strong response to the suspected poison gas attack, which left dozens dead, and the UN Security Council was expected to discuss the crisis later on Monday.

"We resolutely oppose the use of chemical weapons by any country, any organisation, any person, for any reason, under any circumstances," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a regular press briefing.

"China supports conducting a comprehensive, objective and just investigation into the relevant incident, whose results can stand the tests of history and an examination of the facts, and will bring the responsible party to justice under the law," said Mr Geng.

He said the UN Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should continue their role as the main channel for dealing with the problem.

China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Asked about a deadly air strike on a Syrian air base following the poison gas attacks, Mr Geng demurred, calling on all parties to "promote peaceful settlement" of the strife.

 
 

Syrian state media reported that "several missiles" had hit the T-4 base in central Syria just before dawn on Monday. Washington and Paris have denied any involvement, and Damascus and Moscow later blamed Israel.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait have condemned the alleged chemical attack.

In separate statements issued on Sunday night, the Gulf countries did not assign blame for the suspected attack, which the United States and France have pinned on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned and condemns the horrific chemical attack," the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, quoting a Foreign Ministry official.

Bahrain denounced the alleged attack as ugly and stressed "the need to speed up efforts to protect civilians in every part of Syria".

In Doha, Qatar's Foreign Ministry said it was "deeply shocked by this crime".

"The impunity of war criminals in Syria has led to further atrocities and undermined efforts to achieve justice for the victims," it added.

An official at Kuwait's Foreign Ministry said the number of casualties in Douma was painful and he called for "rapid action by the international community".

Mr Trump reacted with fury to Saturday's apparent chemical attack - the last rebel-held area of the onetime opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta - lashing out at Mr Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

"President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay," Mr Trump warned on Sunday.

Syria and Moscow denounced the allegations as fabrications and warned against using them to justify military action.

Backed by Moscow, Mr Assad has waged a seven-week assault to dislodged rebels from Eastern Ghouta.

The onslaught killed more than 1,700 civilians, displaced tens of thousands, and left Islamist rebels cornered in their last holdout of Douma, Ghouta's largest town.