Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialized nations met in Italy on Monday, looking to put pressure on Russia to break its ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reports.
In a shift in Washington’s strategy, US missiles hit a Syrian air base last week in retaliation for what Washington and its allies say was a poison gas attack by Syria’s military in which scores of civilians died.
Calling the strike a “game changer”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said support for the Syrian president “was toxifying the reputation of Russia” and suggested sanctions could be imposed on Moscow if it refused to change course.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to travel to Moscow on Tuesday at the end of the two-day gathering in the Tuscan city of Lucca with his Italian, German, French, British, Japanese and Canadian counterparts.
“What we’re trying to do is to give Rex Tillerson the clearest possible mandate from us as the West, the UK, all our allies here, to say to the Russians ‘this is your choice: stick with that guy, stick with that tyrant, or work with us to find a better solution’,” Johnson was quoted as saying.
Russia has rejected accusations that Assad used chemical arms against his own people and has said it will not cut its ties with Assad.
“Returning to pseudo-attempts to resolve the crisis by repeating mantras that Assad must step down cannot help sort things out,” Reuters quoted a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying on Monday.
Johnson said he was keen to see further sanctions imposed on both Syrian and Russian “military figures”.
Speaking to reporters in France, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is also ready to stiffen sanctions on Moscow.
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