Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a Berlin conference of German ambassadors that the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in Syria would be “a crime against civilisation”.
“If their use is confirmed, the world community would have to act,” he said. “Then Germany would be among those who would support consequences. In this regard, we are in close communications with the United Nations and our allies.”
He did not specify what the consequences would be, but the US, Britain and France have signalled a growing willingness to strike the regime militarily if the use of chemical weapons is confirmed.
Last year, US president Barack Obama said that if Syria used chemical weapons, that would be the “red line” for military intervention.
The comments came as pressure for international action in Syria was mounting in the wake of an alleged gas attack near Damascus last week.
UN experts headed to the site of the suspected attack on Monday. The German foreign minister said growing evidence that the regime had used chemical weapons was “disturbing” and said the admission of UN inspectors to the area was overdue.
Syria’s opposition says more than 1,300 people died when regime forces unleashed chemical weapons against rebel-held towns near Damascus last Wednesday, while Doctors Without Borders said 355 people had died of “neurotoxic” symptoms.
Damascus has strongly denied it carried out a chemical attack, instead blaming the rebels.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said there was “a very high probability” the regime had employed chemical weapons, which he said would constitute “a terrible crime against men, women and children”.
A chemical weapons attack would breach a “taboo”, violate the international treaty banning their use, and require “a very clear international response”, said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
He said he would “not speculate” on whether Germany would potentially join or support any military action.
Westerwelle also urged “level-headedness” to avoid an escalation in the Middle East and said the goal remained a political solution to the conflict.
“Both are necessary: determination and prudence,” he said.
Germany has so far opposed any military action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has fought a bloody campaign against rebels for over two years.
Assad told Russian newspaper Izvestiya that any military action taken by the west on Syria would fail.
Memories of Germany’s World War II aggression have made it reluctant to take part in military action abroad, although it has sent troops to Afghanistan and joined a series of peacekeeping missions.
Berlin earned diplomatic criticism for failing to take part in the 2011 Nato action to oust Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi.