British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned the US not to rush into a confrontation against the Syrian government as US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering military action against Damascus over this week's alleged chemical attack.
Johnson said Thursday the top priority should be complementary peace talks and passing a United Nations resolution to investigate Tuesday’s attack, which reportedly killed over 70 people and injured dozens more.
"It is very important to try first to get out a UN resolution," Johnson said.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, Johnson’s French counterpart, echoed that view, saying: “(The first stage) is not to go in ourselves, under the pretext that the US President may have a rush of blood to the head, and get onto a war footing.”
The comments will be seen as an attempt to quell the idea of military intervention by Trump, who unexpectedly suggested military action against President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday.
The US president said Thursday that "something should happen" with regard to Assad in the wake of Tuesday’s attack, which US officials say Assad perpetrated.
On Tuesday, a suspected chemical attack targeted the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. It was followed by alleged air raids that struck a hospital where victims of the assault were being treated.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also warned that Assad must leave. The US priorities in Syria would be a “political process that would lead to Assad leaving,” Tillerson told reporters in Florida, ahead of Trump's summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping..
The Trump administration’s criticism of Assad was in sharp contrast to a statement released by his administration last week which appeared to back away from long-held US calls for the Syrian president to step down.
Any attempt by Washington to directly attack the Syrian government could trigger a confrontation with Russia, which it will be looking to avoid.
Moscow has challenged Trump to set out his strategy on Syria. "Russia's approach to Assad is clear. He is the legal president of an independent state. What is the US approach?" Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.