CANBERRA – As the full choking horror of the deadly chemical attack on civilians in north eastern Syria emerges, the Australian Government strode out to urge the UN Security Council to do something it has been unable to do over Syria: unite and take action.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have also called for an independent, international investigation into the attack which has killed dozens of people, including women and children, in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria's Idlib Province.
Hundreds more people have been injured in what is being regarded as the deadliest chemical weapons attack since Syria's six year war began.
Witnesses say birds fell from the sky and dying children and adults were filmed foaming at the mouth.
The U.S. Government believes the chemical agent sarin was used and have blamed Syrian forces of the Assad regime.
Turnbull has condemned the "horrendous use of chemical weapons".
"If the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, as is being alleged, that constitutes a war crime. It constitutes a shocking war crime," the Prime Minister told Tasmanian radio 7AD.
"The Assad regime should abide by the laws of armed conflict and there should be and will be I've no doubt, a full investigation into the circumstances of what appears to, well what has been, appears to be, a horrendous use of chemical weapons which we condemn."
The Syrian military have denied responsibility, saying they would never use chemical weapons.
US President Donald Trump called the assault "reprehensible" and one that "cannot be ignored by the civilised world".
Turnbull and Bishop have urged the UN Security Council to act on the ongoing conflict in Syria as soon as possible.
The Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday, New York time.
"The UN Security Council needs to address this situation as soon as possible," the pair said in a statement.
"We call on the Council to take action in response to this attack.
"The continuing deaths of civilians in the Syrian conflict is deplorable."
But just a few weeks ago, permanent members Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution to impose new sanctions on Syria over alleged use of chemical weapons.
Observers expect Wednesday's meeting is unlikely to change much. Russia has long-standing links to Syria while China has a firm policy of non-intervention in other countries' affairs.
Labor Leader Bill Shorten and shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong have condemned the attack "a barbaric and criminal act".
The pair have called for immediate action against those responsible.
"This attack again highlights the brutality of the Assad regime towards its own people, and confirms it should have no place in a future, stable post-war Syria," Shorten and Wong said in a statement.
"Labor calls on Russia to use its influence on the Assad regime to prevent further attacks against Syria's innocent civilian population."
The Turnbull Government is also considering further sanctions on the Assad regime.
"Australia is addressing the conflict in Syria through our military and humanitarian efforts, and through our autonomous sanctions," Turnbull and Bishop said.
"We call on all parties to reduce the violence and engage in UN‑brokered efforts to find a political solution to this terrible conflict."
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