France’s Ayrault urges Russia to back U.N. resolution on Syria

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrives to attend a defence council at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, a day after a priest was killed with a knife and another hostage seriously wounded in an attack on a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray carried out by assailants linked to Islamic State, July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS A U.N. report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a chance to push Russia to accept a resolution condemning the Syrian regime and resume political negotiations, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW found that Syrian government troops were responsible for two toxic gas attacks and Islamic State militants used sulfur mustard gas.

“We are working with our partners in the U.N. Security Council, notably the United States and Britain, on a resolution condemning the attacks under Chapter 7,” Ayrault told France’s Le Monde newspaper in a interview published on Saturday.

“This means sanctions against the perpetrators of these crimes and those responsible for these abominations,” he said.

The Security Council is due to discuss the report next week.

The inquiry found there was sufficient information to conclude that Syrian Arab Air Force helicopters dropped devices that then released toxic substances in Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and Sarmin on March 16, 2015, both in Idlib province. Both cases involved the use of chlorine.

It has set the stage for a Security Council showdown between the five veto-wielding powers, likely pitting Russia and China against the United States, Britain and France over whether sanctions should be imposed in the wake of the inquiry.

Ayrault said France’s goal was to obtain a condemnation by the Security Council and create the conditions for resuming political dialogue.

“We must use this opportunity to tell Russia: You now have a opportunity to head back to the political track and get out of the military quagmire you walked into,” Ayrault said.

Russia said on Thursday it was prepared to work with the United States on a response to the U.N. report.

Le Monde quoted Ayrault as saying: “Russia says it wants a political solution and resuming talks in Geneva? I tell them then: condemn the Syrian regime and stop the bombings.”

(Reporting by Bate Felix and John Irish; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)