Author: Joe Watts
Britain and America have failed to win immediate support from European allies for new sanctions on Russia following the chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spearheaded the drive at the G7 for punitive measures against Moscow, but could not win the full-throated backing he wanted from Germany, Italy or the wider European Union.
British officials insisted that targeted sanctions are still on the table, but that moving forward with them would have to wait for a full investigation into the attack which killed scores in the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun.
Allies from the EU and Canada had also underlined the need for due process before moving on with any new programme of sanctions, the G7 did agree that no solution to the crisis in Syria was possible while Bashar Assad remained in power.
A UK source told The Independent: “There must be an investigation on the ground into the chemical attack. Then sanctions are on the table with evidence.”
Officials tried to play down the failure to win more support for sanctions, saying gaining backing from the Germans and Italians was always likely to prove difficult.
But Mr Johnson had arrived at the summit in Lucca, Italy, raising the prospect of targeted sanctions against senior Russian officers involved in the Syria conflict, along with top Syrian officials.
Despite a joint statement from Theresa May and US President Donald Trump saying that there was a “window of opportunity” for Russia to ditch its support for the Assad regime, support for sanctions was never more than lukewarm at the G7.
The group of nations did give full support for the US missile strike on the Syrian airbase from which the chemical attack is believed to have originated, and were united in their condemnation of Assad.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it is clear “to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end”.
Mr Tillerson is travelling to Moscow imminently and had hoped to take with him a definite statement of intent from the G7 nations and other partners, including Middle Eastern allies who are at the Lucca meeting.
There was outrage across the world after dozens of civilians were killed in what is believed by the West to have been a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime.
Anticipating tough language from the G7 in Italy, Russia and Iran issued on Monday a joint call for an “unbiased investigation” into the gassing at the Syrian village.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed to demand the probe, while denouncing the US attack on the Syrian airbase as “an act of aggression against a sovereign nation”.