President Trump’s top diplomats called out Russia on Tuesday for being complicit in the Syrian government's alleged poison gas attack on civilians — the rebuke coming a day after rescuers reported Syrians, including women and children, were suffering from suffocation after the suspected chlorine attack.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Russia is ultimately to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Speaking at an inaugural meeting of a new organization aimed at ending the use of chemical weapons, Tillerson said those who use chemical weapons on civilians are being put “on notice.”
“There is simply no denying that Russia, by shielding its Syrian ally, has breached its commitments to the United States as a framework guarantor and has betrayed the chemical weapons convention and the UN Security Resolution 2118,” Tillerson said.
The Secretary of State was referring to the 2013 agreement Russia made with the U.S. on the removal of chemical weapons from Syria.
"Russia's failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution of the overall crisis,” he added. "At a very minimum, Russia must stop vetoing and at least abstain from future Security Council votes on this issue."
Tillerson’s condemnation comes a day after rescue teams and activists reported Syrian civilians, including women and children, were attacked with suspected chlorine gas. More than 20 civilians were evacuated from a rebel-held neighborhood in the Duoma district early Monday morning, Syrian Civil Defense said.
At least 13 people suffered from suffocation, a symptom after inhaling chlorine gas, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Activists blamed the Syrian government for Monday’s attack. The government and army, who have been accused in the past of launching such attacks, vehemently denied using the poisonous gas.
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also addressed the suspected chemical attack on Syrians and slammed Russia for ‘sending a dangerous message to the world.”
"When Russia killed the [Joint Investigative Mechanism], they sent a dangerous message to the world -- one that not only said chemical weapons use is acceptable but also that those who use chemical weapons don't need to be identified or held accountable,” Haley said in a statement Tuesday.
She added: “If these reports are true, this attack in Syria should weigh heavily on their conscience. The United States will never stop fighting for the innocent Syrian children, women, and men who have become victims of their own government and those who continue to prop it up.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.