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No agreement among G7 FMs on further Syrian sanctions

Editor: zhenglimin 丨Xinhua

04-12-2017 07:54 BJT

ROME, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) countries ended a meeting in Italy on Tuesday without agreeing on further Syrian sanctions, Italy's foreign minister Angelino Alfano said.

"There is no consensus at this moment for new sanctions as an effective instrument to reach our goal," Alfano told a press conference after the meeting.

The G7 gathered in the city of Lucca on Monday for a two-day meeting focused on key topics in foreign policy, and especially on the latest developments concerning the Syrian civil war.

During the meeting, British foreign minister Boris Johnson was said to have proposed fresh sanctions on Syrian and Russian military officials, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack launched on a rebel-held city in northwestern Syria on April 4.

Western countries blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces for the attack, which killed more than 80 people. On April 7, the United States ordered a missile strike against a Syrian air base in retaliation.

Syria's government denied any responsibility for the attack, and Russia, which is its strongest ally along with Iran, stood firmly by it.

The meeting in Lucca was seen as a key moment for the G7 countries to outline a common approach before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was due to visit Moscow on Tuesday afternoon.

Yet the ministers seemed aware of the risk of "isolating" Russia, and their final statement made no mention of sanctions.

Instead, the final communique read: "We call on Russia and Iran, who have a responsibility, as allies of the Syrian regime, to use their influence to ensure Syria's compliance with all of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention."

Rather than sanctions, the group called for an investigation into last week's suspected nerve gas attack by the United Nations' Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW-UN), urging all parties involved in the conflict to allow the probe.

The ministers added they believed there was "an opportunity to bring this tragic crisis to an end."

"Russia has the potential to help resolve the conflict and restore a stable and unified Syria," they said.

Alfano said the group could not agree on new restrictive measures against Damascus and Moscow.

"We have expressed different opinions, and it seems to me the prevailing line was that of trying to involve Russia in a constructive cooperation aimed at avoiding the military conflict and boosting the political (peace) process," he told reporters.

Indeed, the G7 ministers in their joint statement said that if Russia was ready to use its influence on the Syrian regime, they were equally prepared "to work with it (Russia) in resolving the conflict... pursuing a political settlement, and ultimately contributing to the costs of stabilization and reconstruction."

Before flying to Moscow, the U.S. secretary of state also declared that "Russia can play an important role" in building a stable and secure future for Syria, according to Ansa news agency.

But it must first decide which side it is going to stand on, Tillerson warned.

Earlier on Tuesday, G7 ministers had held talks with their counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. The enlarged extraordinary session was called to discuss Syria with Arab and Middle Eastern regional powers able to play a role in the complex Syrian situation.

The Group of Seven is an informal bloc of industrialized nations comprised of the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Japan.

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