G7 countries meet, seek clarity on U.S. policy toward Syria

At issue are conflicting comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley after a chemical attack blamed on the Syrian regime killed at least 89 people.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  April 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM
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April 10 (UPI) -- G7 members questioned the mixed signals sent by the United States in its attack on the Syrian regime last week as representatives met Monday in Lucca, Italy.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend the G7 meeting, and representatives of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Britain will have an opportunity to seek some clarity on the U.S. policy toward Syria, the BBC reported Monday.

A U.S. missile strike on a Syrian military air field Thursday came days after a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in Syria killed at least 89 civilians last week. The attack was widely blamed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally.

While Tillerson said Sunday that Russia failed to prevent the chemical attack, making Russia a complicit partner in it, he also said the U.S. response did not signify a "change to our military posture" regarding Syria. He added that the "first priority" is defeating the Islamic State in Syria. His comments came a day after Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said there could be no stabilization of the Syrian situation unless Assad is removed from office. Her remarks came days after she said Assad's departure is not a U.S. priority.

Such mixed signals are of concern to the other G7 nations. The agenda for the meeting includes discussions on pressuring Russia to distance itself from the Syrian regime. Boris Johnson, Britain's foreign secretary, said he supported another round of economic sanctions against Russia, saying, "It's time for [Russian President] Vladimir Putin to face the truth about the tyrant he is propping up."

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