- G7 reject fresh sanction plan
- Tillerson flies to Moscow
- Sarin gas found in Khan Zeikhoun – Turkey
The G7 group of the world’s most industrialised nations has rejected the possibility of bringing in fresh sanctions against Russia and Syria.
The increased diplomatic focus comes after the alleged use of chemical weapons in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun last week.
At least 89 people died.
Syria has denied it carried out a chemical attack.
A fresh diplomatic push
G7 foreign ministers meeting in the central Italian town of Lucca have been trying to agree a united position on the conflict in Syria.
The nations involved did agree there can be no solution to the Syria crisis while President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.
However, they failed to agree on the potential use of further sanctions and the UK’s proposal to target senior military leaders thought to have been involved was pushed to one side.
“Actually, there is no consensus on fresh sanctions as an effective measure,” Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told reporters at a press conference.”
“Sanctions are a mechanism and not an end in themselves,” he added.
On Monday, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson evoked the possibility of sanctions “against Russian Army officials involved in coordinating operations in Syria who are therefore tainted by Assad’s atrocious behaviour.”
What was Johnson referring to?
At least 89 people, including many children, died in an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria last week.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quoted the country’s health minister as saying tests on those who died have revealed traces of sarin gas.
#BREAKING Turkey says tests confirm sarin used in Syria attack— AFP news agency (@AFP) 11 avril 2017
Syria has denied carrying out an attack.
However, the US carried out a retaliatory strike on a Syrian airbase shortly afterwards.
It is the first time the US has directly targeted Assad’s military resources.
What has the US said?
That Russia should abandon its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after what a top US official referred to as his repeated use of chemical weapons and join Washington to map out a peaceful future for Syria.
Secretary-of-State Rex Tillerson made the comments an hour before he flew to Moscow from the G7 meeting in Italy.
Analysts say the former Exxon oil executive is facing his biggest diplomatic challenge so far when he is in Moscow.
“Russia has aligned with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah. Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia’s interest?” asked Tillerson, who is meeting his Russian counterpart.
“We hope that the Russian government concludes that they have aligned themselves with an unreliable partner in Bashar Al-Assad. It is clear to us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”
Tillerson added that Russia had failed to act as guarantor for a 2013 agreement to rid Syria of chemical weapons. These remain a threat amid the “chaotic conditions on the ground in Syria”.
“We do not want the regime’s uncontrolled stockpile of chemical weapons to fall into the hands of ISIL or other terrorist groups who could and want to attack the United States or our allies.”
“Nor can we accept the normalisation of the use of chemical weapons by other actors or countries in Syria or elsewhere.”
What about Assad’s allies?
The Syrian president’s allies have stood firmly by him.
A joint command centre made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia said on Sunday it would respond to any fresh aggression.
What is Russia’s involvement in Syria?
Vladimir Putin has been Assad’s top international backer since 2015 amid Syria’s brutal six-year civil war.