French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le DrianReuters

French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on Tuesday there were signs that chemicals had been used in attacks by Syrian government forces on rebels in northwest Syria, though he noted these signs still needed to be verified.

“We have a sign of the use of chemical weapons in the Idlib area but for now there isn’t verification,” he told the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee, according to Reuters.

“We are cautious because we think that the use of chemical weapons must be confirmed and lethal before we react,” added Le Drian.

Last week, the State Department said there were signs that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including what it called an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria. The department warned that Washington and its allies would respond “quickly and appropriately” if this were proven.

It later clarified that the US has received numerous reports that appear consistent with chemical exposure after an attack by Syrian government forces in northwest Syria, but it has made no definitive conclusion as to whether they used chemical weapons.

Western powers, led by the United States, have in the past blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for carrying out attacks on civilians using chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime repeatedly denies having any connection to chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

In March, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) determined that chlorine was used in a deadly attack on the Syrian town of Douma in 2018, though it did not say who was responsible for the attack.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Moscow and Washington, but the OPCW has since found chlorine has been "systematically and repeatedly" used as a weapon.

Such chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018 led the US to launch punitive strikes against Syrian forces.