The German government has demanded a "clear reaction" from the international community over the use of poison gas in Syria's civil war. What remained unclear, however, are the exact consequences Berlin is demanding.
"The circumstances, the images, the witness testimony, and the statements made by international aid organizations are unfortunately all speaking in clear language," said government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday (26.08.2013) in Berlin, referring to the "high probability" that poisonous gas was used in the attack near Damascus on August 21 that allegedly left some 1,300 people dead.
Without doubt, Seibert added, the attack represented a "horrific crime against humanity" that "seriously contravened the chemical weapons convention," an agreement that took effect in 1997. "This act cannot go unpunished."
Seibert said that Berlin had welcomed the move to allow the United Nations to inspect the site where the attack took place - adding, however, that Chancellor Angela Merkel, together with British Premiere David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, criticized the amount of time it took for that permission to come through.
Demand for consequences
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a Berlin conference of ambassadors on Monday that Germany was in close communications with the UN and its allies in establishing a "common approach to ending the violence" in Syria, despite "highly frustrating constant blockades" from the UN Security Council.
However, Westerwelle emphasized that if the use of chemical weapons "was confirmed, then the world community would have to act. Then Germany would be among those who would support consequences."
The Syrian opposition says over 1300 people were killed - and hundreds of others wounded - in the attack
Westerwelle refused to divulge whether those "consequences" could include military force. A foreign ministry spokesman said later that the "current goal is to establish a unanimous reaction on the part of the international community." Should this fail, the community would be faced with "a new situation that couldn't be speculated on at the moment."
A host of German politicians have already spoken out against any military intervention in Syria. Those statements came after calls from the US, France and Britain for a military response after reports surfaced of chemical weapons use in Syria.
A UN spokesperson said experts had arrived at the site of the attack near Damascus on Monday to begin their inspections. According to the Syrian opposition, some 1,300 people were killed in the attack. President Bashar al-Assad has rejected allegations that chemical weapons were used in the strike, and on Sunday the government gave the go-ahead for the UN inspection.