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International support grows for Britain following nerve agent attack

Germany, the US and France have issued a joint statement with Britain condemning Russia’s alleged nerve agent attack.

Britain and three of its closest allies have now unanimously blamed Russia for the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, following days of lukewarm responses and varying degrees of support from the international community.

On Thursday, Britain, the US, Germany and France issued a joint statement calling on Moscow to answer all questions about the incident.

“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” they said.

“It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all.”

They demanded Russia “live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security”.

The statement puts on a show of unity, but since Mr Skripal was found collapsed on March 4, various powers have been cautious about laying the blame at Russia’s door.

United States: The response from President Donald Trump was initially ambiguous, particularly his sacking of secretary of state Rex Tillerson who condemned Russia’s alleged actions. But on Wednesday night, the White House finally said America “stands in solidarity” with the UK.

In a statement, the US said: “This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes.”

Mr Tillerson was fired on Tuesday, the day after branding Russia’s actions “outrageous”, adding: “Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”

Germany: Germany also initially appeared cautious, although Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attack and promised Theresa May her support in a phone call.

New German foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday it is “disappointing that Russia so far doesn’t appear to be prepared” to help clear up the case, adding that Germany would consult with London.

France: Britain’s closest neighbour also appeared wary laying the blame for the attack at Russia’s door, but said on Wednesday it would consult with the UK to co-ordinate a response and expressed its confidence in Britain’s investigation.

But elsewhere, support for the UK has been more strident.

Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that he had spoken with Theresa May offering her Canada’s support.

He told reporters: “The attack is despicable and it is unacceptable that there would be chemical weapons used against citizens of the United Kingdom.”

He added: “Russia’s likely involvement is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms.”

Australia: Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop announced in a joint statement their support for the UK’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the attack.

They even said that Australia was itself considering joining the UK in taking action against Russia, stating: “Australia is considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom, in close consultation with the UK Government and other partners.”

The EU: European Council president Donald Tusk has announced he will be putting the poisoning on the agenda of next week’s EU meeting.

He tweeted: “I express my full solidarity with PM @theresa_may in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s #EUCO agenda.

“For real friends, this should be obvious: At a time of fake news spreading, meddling in our elections, and attacks on people on our soil with nerve agent, the response must not be transatlantic bickering but transatlantic unity.”

Nato: The North Atlantic Council announced its strong support of the UK in a statement released on Wednesday.

It said: “Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since Nato’s foundation.

“Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

“Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements.”

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