26 Apr 2013

David Cameron: Syria chemical weapons use a ‘war crime’

Europe Editor and Presenter

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a “war crime” David Cameron says, but adds it is “unlikely” British troops will be sent into the war-wracked country.

Speaking on the BBC Breakfast show, the prime minister said there is “limited but growing evidence” that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian civil war.

It is extremely serious, this is a war crime, and we should take it very seriously. David Cameron

In particular, Mr Cameron said it is likely that the weapons have been used by the Syrian government, rather than rebels. This is despite the Syrian government having repeatedly claimed it would never use chemical weapons for “moral and humanitarian” reasons.

“It is very disturbing what we are seeing,” Mr Cameron said. “It’s limited evidence but there’s growing evidence that we have seen too of the use of chemical weapons, probably by the regime.

“It is extremely serious, this is a war crime, and we should take it very seriously.”

The US government has also said there is evidence that Damascus has used chemical weapons.

‘Red line’

Both sides in Syria’s civil war have accused the other of using chemical weapons. In March 15 people died in an attack in Aleppo which the government and rebels said they were not responsible for.

Following the incident, the Syrian government asked the UN to probe what had happened, but an investigation failed to start because the Syrian government refused to give the UN access to all sites where it is claimed chemical weapons have been used.

“I think what President Obama said was absolutely right, that this should form for the international community a red line for us to do more,” said Mr Cameron.

Channel 4 News special report: Syria's Descent

“I have always been keen for us to do more. We are working with the opposition, we want our allies and partners to do more with us to shape that opposition to make sure we are supporting people with good motives who want a good outcome, to put pressure on that regime so we can bring it to an end.”

Asked if there could be troops on the ground in Syria, Mr Cameron said: “I don’t want to see that and I don’t think that is likely to happen, but I think we can step up the pressure on the regime, work with our partners, work with the opposition in order to bring about the right outcome.

“But we need to go on gathering this evidence and also to send a very clear warning to the Syrian regime about these appalling actions.”