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G7 rejects Russian sanctions; Tillerson gives ultimatum

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attempted to persuade G7 representatives to apply new sanctions against Russia after last week's chemical attack on Syrian civilians.

By
Ed Adamczyk
(L-R) High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pose for a photo Monday at the meeting of foreign ministers and representatives of the G7 countries in Lucca, Italy. The group was unable to agree on imposing new sanctions on Russia. Photo by Riccardo Dalle Luche/EPA
(L-R) High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pose for a photo Monday at the meeting of foreign ministers and representatives of the G7 countries in Lucca, Italy. The group was unable to agree on imposing new sanctions on Russia. Photo by Riccardo Dalle Luche/EPA

April 11 (UPI) -- British and U.S. officials on Tuesday were unable to persuade fellow G7 representatives to adopt new sanctions against Russia in the wake of a Syrian chemical attack as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a new ultimatum to Moscow.

While representatives of the seven nations meeting in Lucca, Italy, agreed that no solution to the Syrian crisis would be found while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained in power, they were unable to agree on economic sanctions against Russia. The proposed sanctions were meant to convince Russia to abandon its alliance with Syria in light of the chemical attacks against Syrian citizens that left at least 89 people dead. The Syrian government denied any involvement in the attacks.

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson led the drive for sanctions at the meeting of industrialized nations, but did not find enthusiastic backing for his proposal. The G7 agreed to delay implementing sanctions until the discovery of "hard and irrefutable evidence" of the Syrian government's involvement in the attacks, and Russia's approval, the BBC reported.

Though Tillerson pushed for the sanctions, on Monday night, a senior Trump administration official told reporters, "At this time, there is no U.S. intelligence community consensus that Russia had foreknowledge of the Syrian chemical attack."

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Allies for Canada and the European Union have also been slow to support any new sanctions against Russia, but the G7 gave full support to the U.S. missile strike on the airbase where the chemical attack was believed to have begun.

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Russia and Iran issued a joint statement Monday in anticipation of any G7 action, condemning the chemical attack and calling for an "unbiased investigation." The statement also denounced the U.S. missile attack that followed the chemical attack.

Following the conclusion of the G7 conference, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew to Moscow to meet with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He offered a sense of urgency over the Syria issue, and issued a stern ultimatum to Russia, to either stand with the United States and allies condemning the Assad regime, or stand with Syria, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

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"We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people," Tillerson said before he left Italy. "Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role, or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia' interests, longer term."

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