G7 members ignore Boris Johnson's calls for renewed sanctions on Russia

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano says Russia must not be “pushed into a corner” over Syria, as the Group of Seven ignored calls by Britain and the US for new sanctions on Moscow over its support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Alfano said there was “no consensus” among G7 countries for new sanctions after the idea was raised at a meeting in Lucca by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. He added that isolating Russia “would be wrong.”

Boris Johnson said there could still be new sanctions imposed on Russian military officers over their support for the Syrian government, though his call for it was ignored.

Johnson also said he agreed with other EU leaders that Russia needed to be part of the solution in Syria, but said the country must abandon its support for President Assad to do so.

The G7 has called for an independent international investigation into last week’s chemical attack in Syria, and Johnson said depending on what it finds “those responsible for unleashing those chemical weapons” could face sanctions — including Russian officers.

Alfano said “the G7’s position is very clear — supporting the existing sanctions” against Russia over its military activities in Ukraine, as well as the belief that Russia should put pressure on Assad to stop the use of chemical weapons, and should join an international push for peace in Syria.

Ending a G7 foreign ministers meeting, he added “we must have a dialogue with Russia.”

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the meeting that Russia must choose between aligning itself with the US and likeminded countries or embracing Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran, and the militant group Hezbollah.

Last week, the US launched a cruise-missile attack on an airfield controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the Idlib province earlier that week. Many Western countries, including Italy, France, Germany, and the UK praised the US’ intervention.

Tillerson says it’s unclear whether Russia failed to take seriously its obligations in Syria or has been incompetent, but he says that distinction “doesn’t much matter to the dead.” He also said of the recent chemical attack: “We cannot let this happen again.”

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