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President Obama On Syria After G20 Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the G20 Summit. (June 2013.)

President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is a threat to global peace and security.

At a news conference following the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, which killed over 1400 Syrian civilians including more than 400 children, “isn’t just a Syrian tragedy. It’s a threat to global peace and security.”

President Obama On Syria After G20 Summit
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Mr. Obama, who is seeking to rally support from the international community and the United States Congress for a targeted U.S. military response to the atrocity, said that the Syrian government’s escalating use of chemical weapons is threatening Syria’s neighbors and increasing the risk that such weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists:

“More broadly, it threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations – and those nations represent 98 percent of the world’s people. Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence.”

Mr. Obama said that he would “greatly prefer working through multilateral channels and through the United Nations” to respond to the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. But he said, “Given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action.”

“The security of the world, and my particular task, looking out for the national security of the United States, requires that when there’s a breach this brazen of a norm this important, and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn’t act, then that norm begins to unravel. And if that norm unravels, then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling, and that makes for a more dangerous world, and that then requires even more difficult responses in the future.”

President Obama said that any U.S. military response he is considering would be “limited...but meaningful...[one]that degrades Assad’s capacity to deliver chemical weapons, not just this time, but also in the future and serves as a strong deterrent.”

As for the underlying conflict in Syria, Mr. Obama said, a resolution will not come through military means, but through a negotiated political process, such as was first mapped out in Geneva in 2012. That process envisions a cessation of violence in Syria and the establishment of a transition government responsive to the aspirations of the Syrian people.