G7 meeting: US allies seek political solution to Syria crisis

G7 meeting: US allies seek political solution to Syria crisis

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 10:58 am

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Germany and Italy stressed Tuesday the need for a political solution in Syria, where the U.S. has intervened with missile strikes in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7), which comprises the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada, discussed the crisis with representatives from the European Union and several Middle Eastern countries.

“We do not believe that the military solution is the right one,” said Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who hosted the talks also involving ministers from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan.

The ministers, meeting in the Tuscan town of Lucca, agreed that “Russia must not be isolated and, on the contrary, must insofar as possible be involved in the political transition process in Syria,” Alfano added.

While the White House said Monday the U.S. was ready to repeat strikes against Syrian targets to prevent the use of chemical weapons, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson focused on diplomacy in talks with partners, Germany said.

“Tillerson explicitly said they are seeking a non-violent, non-military way,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters, praising his U.S. counterpart for taking “a very realistic and clear stance.”

The U.S. bombing of Syrian airfield on April 7 in response to the attack in the city of Khan Sheikhoun has confounded expectations that Donald Trump would be an isolationist president, and soured his relations with Russia.

Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has condemned US actions as reckless and counterproductive.

Iran, another main backer of the regime in Damascus, has expressed similar concerns.

The G7 was attempting to put up a united front on Syria ahead of Tillerson’s Wednesday visit to Moscow.

Calls Britain made on Monday to threaten Syria and Russia with further sanctions did not seem to make headway.

Nevertheless, Gabriel urged Moscow to reconsider its support for al-Assad.

“I believe that it is almost inconceivable that Russia wants to stand on the side of such a murderous regime as that of Bashar al-Assad for the long haul,” he said.

North Korea’s illegal nuclear programme and the US decision to send warships to the Korean peninsula, ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Libya, the threat from terrorism and migration were also on the agenda.

The Lucca talks were also laying the ground for next month’s G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, the first to be attended by Trump.


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