Wednesday 16 January 2019

'The international community has to be strong on chemical attack' - Simon Coveney responds to weekend strikes on Syria

Tánaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Mark Condren
Tánaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Mark Condren

Sean Nolan

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that he would prefer to see a response to the situation in Syria come through the UN rather than the weekend's NATO-backed air strikes.

On Saturday, the US, UK and France hit Syria with over 100 missiles, all targeted at chemical weapons facilities in response to a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7, an attack that killed over 75 people.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast ahead of a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg Mr Coveney said that he would rather the situation in Syria was handled through the UN.

"I think anybody else who was watching the imagery of the results of that chemical attack would feel sick to their stomach," Mr Coveney said.

"I think the international community has to be strong on this issue. I would have much preferred if it was the UN that was taking robust action in terms of accountability, independent inspection, and taking a legal prosecution after investigation on the basis of international war crimes... but that clearly hasn't been possible - yet anyway - through the UN."

However, Mr Coveney added that he felt the weekend's strikes were "not an attempt at regime change" and were instead a "robust response" and a deterrent" to the use of chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney's UK counterpart Boris Johnson has defended the strikes.

Mr Johnson, speaking at the summit in Luxembourg, stressed it was "not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change" and "the Syrian war in many ways will go on in its horrible, miserable way".

"But it was the world saying that we have had enough of the use of chemical weapons, the erosion of that taboo that has been in place for 100 years has gone too far under Bashar Assad," he said.

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