U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry used some of his strongest language yet to address the ongoing situation in Syria on Monday, calling the use of chemical weapons against civilians “undeniable.”
“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” Kerry said during a prepared statement in Washington. “By any standard, it is inexcusable and — despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured — it is undeniable.”
Kerry went on to say that video evidence and on-the-ground reports from humanitarian organizations point to the fact that chemical weapons were, indeed, used.
Kerry’s comments come after a team of UN observers investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria were shot at on Monday, and forced to turn back to their Damascus hotel. Syrian state media blamed “terrorists” for the attack on the UN convoy, while rebel groups blamed the Syrian government.
In his speech, Kerry criticized the Syrian government for not allowing UN investigators easy access to the sites where the chemical weapon attacks occurred.
“For five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systemically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons.”
Kerry didn’t give the next actions for the U.S., but said that President Barack Obama has been speaking with Congress and with allies to make an “informed decision about how to respond.”
Also on Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned the attacks on the UN group. “The attacks on the United Nations convoy in Damascus are absolutely abhorrent,” he said. He also said that, while a political solution to end ongoing violence in Syria is favoured, it is becoming less likely. He stopped short of calling for Western military intervention.
The Washington Post has the full transcript of Kerry’s speech here.