Syria: G7 looks to persuade Russia to distance itself from Assad after chemical attack

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The annual G7 talks in Italy this week will be dominated by discussions on how to persuade Russia to distance itself from the Assad regime in Syria in the wake of last week’s chemical attack.

Foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, meet in Sicily on Monday, where discussions will focus on the future of Syria, and the role of Russia, a suspended member of the G8 group, in creating a lasting peace without Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is expected to push for allies to increase sanctions against Putin’s inner circle if he does not agree to scale back Russia’s military and political support for the Assad regime in Syria, and force Assad to stop using chemical weapons.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly criticised Russia for failing to hold Bashar al-Assad to account for his use of chemical weapons on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun last week, which left at least 89 people dead.

The US launched a retaliatory strike against a Syrian air base in response to the use of chemical weapons, but the US has been clear that there has been “no change” in its military posture in Syria, and confirmed that its first priority in the country was the elimination of the Islamic State, not overthrow Assad.

US Senator and former presidentialcandidate John McCaine has called for further air strikes against Syrian military targets to help bring an end to the civil war that has left 400,000 people dead and more than 6 million displaced.

Meanwhile, Syrian allies Russia and Iran condemned the US air strikes, and warned that they would respond with force to what they described as an act of aggression.

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