US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said Russian Federation bore responsibility for recent chemical attacks by the Syrian government, which Moscow backs in the country's civil war. At least 13 people were injured, the group said.
But more than nine months after President Trump ordered airstrikes on a Syrian air base after it deployed chemical weapons, yet another use of the internationally-banned weapons would be a sign of how intractable the conflict has become and how little influence the US has to shape events in the country.
"Only yesterday more than 20 civilians, a lot of them children, were victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack", Tillerson said of the reported attack in Eastern Ghouta that left its victims struggling to breathe.
Eastern Ghouta is the last major rebel-held zone near Damascus and where at least 390,000 civilians have been besieged for four years.
A Syrian army soldier stands guard as a poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen in the background in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria January 31, 2017.
Still, the United States is hoping it can persuade the Russian government - Syrian's most important ally - EXTRA SPACE to bring the long-beleaguered but still-determined Assad to the negotiating table.More news: Snapchat to let users share stories outside the app
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Macron wants the new contact group to bring together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA - along with regional countries to find a solution.
France on Tuesday announced it was sanctioning almost 25 people and companies involved in the transfer of materials and substances that may have been used to manufacture chemical weapons in Syria.
That includes collecting, compiling, and facilitating the sharing of information so that the perpetrators of chemical attacks can be held accountable for their actions, a statement said. It said the companies were helping to supply Syria's chemical weapons programme.
The initiative was announced Tuesday in Paris, where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and diplomats from the other signatory countries.
While the U.S. has long criticized the Assad regime for its brutal tactics, including the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians, it has only taken limited action against his government. "The criminals who have used and designed these barbaric weapons must know that they will not go unpunished".