The U.S. will take action if it sees evidence that Syria’s government is using chemical weapons against the opposition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
“I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur,” she said in Prague today. “This is a red line for the United States.”
The secretary is in Europe for a trip that will include two days of consultations with NATO partners on funding commitments for Afghanistan, the threat to Turkey from Syria’s civil war and instability across the Middle East and North Africa.
She started her 38th visit to Europe as the top U.S. diplomat with a stop in the Czech capital, where she is meeting leaders of the Czech government and the opposition Social Democrats.
The Czechs are sharing expertise on mitigating threats from chemical weapons amid concerns that any such an arsenal may exist in Syria, Clinton told reporters. The consultations have been about what can be done “both at this time and post the inevitable fall of the Assad regime,” she said.
“So we once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that their behavior is reprehensible, their actions against their own people have been tragic,” Clinton said. “But there is no doubt that there is a line between even the horrors that they have already inflicted on the Syrian people and moving to what may be an internationally condemned step of utilizing their chemical weapons.”
Turkey has asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy Patriot missile batteries on its soil for the first time in about a decade amid fears that Syria may launch a punitive attack, which could include the use of chemical weapons, against the country for backing Syrian rebels.
Russia, an ally of Syria, opposes the deployment. President Vladimir Putin will arrive in Istanbul today in an attempt to keep relations between the two countries from becoming hostage to Syria’s 20-month civil war.
One of five permanent members in the United Nations Security Council, Russia has used its veto three times to protect the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, putting it at odds with Turkey, which has backed the rebels who have been fighting to end Assad’s rule since March last year.
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