Bri­tish push for sanc­tions on Rus­sia blocked by G7

Daily Express - - NEWS - By David Mad­dox Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

LEAD­ING EU coun­tries have blocked Bri­tish-in­spired at­tempts to pun­ish Rus­sia over its al­leged com­plic­ity in the bru­tal chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in Syria.

At a sum­mit of the G7 coun­tries, Ger­many, Italy and France ve­toed a plan by For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son to hit Vladimir Putin’s regime with tar­geted sanc­tions.

Their de­ci­sion to cave in to pres­sure from Moscow came de­spite al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia “bears re­spon­si­bil­ity” for the sarin gas at­tack which killed at least 84 peo­ple in­clud­ing more than 20 chil­dren.

Tests on vic­tims of the at­tack in Syria’s north­west­ern Idlib prov­ince con­firmed the use of sarin gas, Tur­key’s health min­is­ter Re­cep Akdag said yes­ter­day. And White House of­fi­cials last night said “there is no ev­i­dence to sup­port Rus­sia claims that the Syria chem­i­cal at­tack was fab­ri­cated”.

The at­tack led to Don­ald Trump or­der­ing a strike on the air­field from where the atroc­ity was launched on Fri­day.

The US has said that the strike took out 20 per cent of Syr­ian dic­ta­tor Bashar Assad’s air force’s ef­fec­tive planes.

Speak­ing af­ter the G7 meet­ing, Ital­ian for­eign min­is­ter An­gelino Al­fano said there was “no con­sen­sus” over sanc­tions. How­ever, he claimed the sum­mit in Italy had been “a po­lit­i­cal suc­cess” de­spite a fail­ure to take firm ac­tion against Rus­sian mil­i­tary sup­port for Assad.

He said lead­ers would use a “win­dow of op­por­tu­nity” cre­ated by last week’s US strike against the regime to re­vi­talise po­lit­i­cal talks.

He said: “There was a preva­lent position, which is very sim­i­lar to the Ital­ian one.

“We must have a di­a­logue with Rus­sia and we must not push Rus­sia into a cor­ner. We must also ask Putin to de­mand the credit that has been up to now granted to Assad and in fact we think that the Russians have the strength that is needed to put pres­sure on Assad and to get him to ob­serve the com­mit­ments re­gard­ing the cease­fire.”

Mr John­son said Rus­sia faces a “big strate­gic choice” as Amer­ica’s top diplo­mat pre­pared to con­front Moscow over its sup­port for Pres­i­dent Assad.

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son ar­rived in Moscow last night to put pres­sure on the Russians to aban­don their sup­port for Assad. He is due to meet Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov to­day.

Mr John­son said: “They have a big strate­gic choice. Do they want to stick with this guy who is poi­son­ing his own peo­ple and poi­son­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of Rus­sia or do they want to be part of the so­lu­tion?”

Mr John­son in­sisted that the op­tion of sanc­tions re­mained on the ta­ble, with a new res­o­lu­tion to be tabled at the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and a “chem­i­cal weapons group” in­spec­tion into what hap­pened.

“Af­ter that, if of course we can find peo­ple, whether they are Syr­i­ans or whether they are Russians as­so­ci­ated with the Syr­ian mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, it is in my view wholly ap­pro­pri­ate that they should face eco­nomic sanc­tions or sanc­tions of some other kind,” he said.

“That is some­thing that had wide ac­cep­tance around the ta­ble last night, but you have got to do things in the proper, le­gal way.”

He said Mr Tiller­son would of­fer a “re-set” of re­la­tions be­tween Moscow and the West.

“Of course, ev­ery­body un­der­stands that Rus­sia has po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic in­ter­ests in Syria,” he added. “All that can be re­spected. What we all want to see is Rus­sia en­gag­ing with a po­lit­i­cal process that in­volves a tran­si­tion to a new gov­ern­ment.”

Boris John­son with Rex Tiller­son, right, and Ger­man for­eign min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel, left, at the G7 in Lucca, Italy

Mr Putin has avoided new sanc­tions

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