In what was seen as an attempt by French president to imitate both Barack Obama and, more recently, Donald Trump, on Tuesday Emmanuel Macron said he was prepared to "strike" Syria if evidence is found to support claims that President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians, though noted that French intelligence agencies do not have any such proof. The aggressive stance followed Macron's statement last May that the use of chemical weapons would represent a “red line”.

“On chemical weapons, I set a red line and I reaffirm that red line,” Macron told reporters in Paris on Tuesday. “Today, our agencies, our armed forces have not established that chemical weapons, as set out in treaties, have been used against the civilian population.”

Just a few hours later, Macron decided to unreaffirm "that red line", when he sent a member of his cabinet to walk back what he said.

According to Reuters, France’s foreign minister sought to clarify his government’s position on the use of chemical weapons in Syria saying that Paris would only strike if the attacks were lethal and carried out by government forces.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.

In a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday expressed concern over signs that chlorine bombs had been used against civilians in Syria.

“(The president) confirmed that he would proceed to military strikes against regime installations if there was a new use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s forces when these attacks are lethal and regime’s responsibility is proven,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.

So far France has admitted there has been no proof that the Assad regime used chemical weapons.