Foreign ministers of the G7 nations have rejected a proposal by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to impose new sanctions on Russia and Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack against civilians by Syrian government forces. Speaking at a press conference in the Italian city of Lucca where the meeting of G7 foreign ministers took place, Angelino Alfano, the Italian foreign minister said, “At the moment, there is no consensus for further sanctions as an instrument to obtain the goal that we are aiming for.”
In an interview with the BBC, Boris Johnson denied that his proposal had been shot down at the meeting, “There was a very wide measure of agreement last night that not just the Syrian generals, but if we could show complicity by those Russian officers who are helping the Syrian military operation, they should also be sanctioned as well,” Johnson said.
The G7 meeting attended by the foreign ministers from the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, was dominated by the issue of Syria after dozens of civilians there was killed in the worst chemical weapons attack to take place in the country since the sarin gas bombing of Ghouta in 2013. The US, which holds President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the attack, responded by firing 59 tomahawk missiles at the airfield from which they claim the attack took place. Syria and Russia deny that Assad was responsible for the attack, claiming instead that an air force bombing using conventional weapons struck a warehouse in which the chemicals were being stored by rebel groups.
Following the Ghouta bombing in 2013, Russia brokered a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, prompting questions as to where the chemicals used in last week’s attack came from. Speaking to American media, Tillerson said “the Russians need to think more carefully about the commitment they made… to be the guarantor that these weapons would be seized, they would be removed, they would be destroyed…So regardless of whether Russia was complicit here or whether they were simply incompetent or whether they got outwitted by the Bashar al-Assad regime…clearly, they have failed in their commitment to the international community.”
President Putin likened these accusations to the false claims presented by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council in the run-up to the Iraq war that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
After the G7 meeting concluded Tillerson flew to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for what he hoped would be ‘constructive talks with the Russian government.”