(FILES) This file photo taken on February 18, 2015 at the Elysee Palace in Paris shows French President Francois Hollande (L) walking with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (C) and French Economy and Industry Minister Emmanuel Macron after a cabinet meeting. Valls quits the French Socialist Party (PS) he announces, AFP reported on June 27, 2017. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP
US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed during a telephone call Tuesday on the need for a “joint response” in the event of another chemical attack in Syria, the French presidency said.
Their call came a day after Washington said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing another chemical weapons attack and warned that his regime would pay a “heavy price” if it went ahead with such an assault.
A Pentagon spokesman said US intelligence had noticed suspect activity at the launch site of the regime’s apparent chemical strike in April.
Days after that strike on a rebel-held town, the United States launched a cruise missile strike on the airfield in retaliation — the first direct US attack on the Syrian regime.
The French foreign ministry refused to say Tuesday whether it too had information about possible preparations by the Syrian regime for a chemical attack.
After a meeting last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an Assad ally, Macron drew a “very clear red line” on the use of chemical weapons “by whomever” and warned of reprisals.
In August 2013, a chemical attack near Damascus brought France and the US to the brink of a joint military intervention in Syria.
But then US president Barack Obama, who had also declared that a chemical attack would cross a “red line”, eventually decided against military action.
The US and Russia instead struck a deal on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.