Western pressure builds on Russian Federation to break ties with Assad

Tillerson is in Italy to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 7 industrialized economies.

Tillerson earlier on "This Week" told Stephanopoulos that the US hopes for a political process in Syria that could bring stability and allow the country's citizens to determine if they want to keep Assad as president. He said Assad is not part of a medium or long-term future for a peaceful Syria after committing "bloody actions". Downing Street said Trump and May had "agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russian Federation that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest".

Tillerson flew straight from the summit in Italy to Moscow, carrying the G-7's strong desire for a new start in Syria, but few concrete proposals to make it happen.

Pressed by reporters, he said: "In terms of the future of Bashar al-Assad, it is important to us that we undertake a political process that leads to the final conclusion of how Syria will be governed".

The U.S. has been focusing its military action in Syria on defeating the Islamic State group. More recently, as Russian Federation helped reverse his military fortunes and left him in control of most of the country's major population centers, much of the West had appeared to come to terms with the conclusion that Assad could stay on for the time being. In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.

Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, of the Russian General Staff, said Russia will provide security for worldwide inspectors seeking to examine Syrian bases, and that Damascus has agreed to allow the inspections.

Another U.S. official cautioned that no final American determination has been made that Russian Federation knew ahead of time that chemical weapons would be used.

After enduring weeks of criticism that he's been silent and sidelined in the Trump administration, Rex Tillerson travels to Moscow newly emboldened by the US decision to drop 59 Tomahawk missiles on an airbase in Syria.

Speaking Tuesday at a meeting of G-7 nations in Italy, Tillerson criticized Russia's long-standing support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and other USA adversaries in the region. But Tillerson appeared more equivocal, saying on Sunday the USA priority in Syria was the defeat of ISIS.

But after talks in the Tuscan city German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: "All the G7 states want to avoid a military escalation and want a political solution without a new spiral of violence". Some analysts say the only replacement could be an Alawite army general, since the presence of such a leader would serve as a guarantee to Syria's minorities.

Johnson put a positive spin on the outcome, saying there could still be sanctions on Russian military officers if an independent investigation into the chemical attack identifies perpetrators.

The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

In an unusual announcement for a foreign government, Johnson also said the US could launch more cruise missiles into Syria like the ones President Donald Trump ordered last week in reaction to Assad's use of chemical weapons.

Tillerson is traveling to Russian Federation several days after a chemical attack in Syria and a USA air strike on a Syrian government base that Moscow on Tuesday dismissed as "an act of aggression".

After last Tuesday's chemical attack in Syria, Trump said his attitude toward Assad "has changed very much" and Tillerson said "steps are underway" to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But Obama backed away from ordering military action without a direct statement of congressional approval, and instead tried to get Congress to provide an authorization that would pass legal scrutiny.

Though such comments hint at a more activist USA foreign policy focused on preventing humanitarian atrocities, Trump's administration has generally downplayed human rights concerns while promoting an "America First" strategy de-emphasizing the concerns of foreign nations.

Mr Johnson is to spearhead demands for Russian Federation to withdraw its forces from Syria when he meets G7 leaders in Italy next week. The inclusion of those countries is important because the US strategy for Syria involves enlisting help from Mideast nations to ensure security and stability in Syria after the Islamic State group is vanquished. "Or, it could be that the Assad regime is playing the Russians for fools, telling them that there are no chemical weapons, all the while stockpiling them on their bases".

  • Leroy Wright