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G7 ministers seek a united front on Syria and North Korea

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
G7 ministers seek a united front on Syria and North Korea

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations are meeting in Italy.

The discussions will prepare the way for a leaders’ summit in Sicily at the end of May.

What are they likely to talk about?

The pressing need to find a solution to the conflict in Syria, particularly in the aftermath of last week’s suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. At least 89 people, many of them children, were killed.

The growing tensions with North Korea are also on the agenda. The US has moved a navy strike group near the Korean peninsula amid concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

They will also discuss Libya. Italy is hoping for vocal support for a UN-backed government in Tripoli which has struggled to establish its authority in the city as well as in the rest of the violence-plagued north African country.

The Trump administration has not yet defined a clear policy. Rome fears Washington may fall into step with Egypt and Russia, which support General Khalifa Haftar, a powerful figure in eastern Libya.

The struggle against terrorism, relations with Iran and instability in Ukraine will also come up for discussion. Talks are due to kick off on Monday afternoon.

Preparations “moving slowly”

Efforts to reach an agreement on statements ahead of time have moved very slowly.

This is partly explained by a difficult transition at the US state department, where many key positions remain unfilled.

Some issues, like trade and climate change, are likely to be ducked this week. “The more complicated subjects will be left to the leaders,” said an Italian diplomat who wanted to remain anonymous.

Further sanctions against Syria and Russia” – UK

The UK’s foreign secretary says Britain will discuss the possibility of further sanctions against senior Syrian and Russian military figures at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy.

“We will be discussing the possibility of further sanctions certainly on some of the Syrian military figures and indeed on some of the Russian military figures who have been involved in coordinating the Syrian military efforts,” Boris Johnson said in a television interview.

In tweets