Putin Calls for Idlib Incident Investigation, Warns of Possible New Provocations

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. In interviews broadcast Sunday, Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus.

"It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end", he said.

It is unclear how the Trump administration's official posture toward Syria and Russian Federation will evolve, but members of Congress have urged the White House to make it clear.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has told CNN that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is a priority, cementing an extraordinary U-turn in the Trump administration's stance on the embattled leader.

The Group of Seven is an informal bloc of industrialized nations comprised of the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Japan. Jabbing at US credibility, the Russian leader reminded reporters about unfounded USA claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, used to justify America's 2003 invasion. The US officials explicitly ruled out any possibility that terrorists or rebel forces possessed the type of chemical weapons use in the attack.

Even on Syria, the positions appeared to be hardening.

In explaining the Syrian government's rationale for waging the attack, an official said the regime's resources were "spread quite thin" and that it probably deployed sarin gas to "make up for the manpower deficiency". Since last Thursday's cruise missile strike, Tillerson and other US officials appear to have reverted to the past administration's rhetoric of insisting that Assad is on the way out, without outlining any strategy for making that happen. And, in fact, during the campaign, President Trump warned against getting involved militarily in Syria.

Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, spoke by phone on Saturday, according to a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said the United States had initiated the call.

Earlier Tuesday, Tillerson said Russian Federation must choose between its support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and cooperating with the U.S.

Earlier this month, the Syrian opposition reported that some 80 people were killed and 200 others injured in a chemical weapons attack in Idlib, blaming the Syrian army for the attack.

Indeed, the G7 ministers in their joint statement said that if Russian Federation 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".

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, "It is very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack and who orchestrated this attack".

Putin's government has been incensed by the Trump administration's public accusations, and even more so by USA military intervention in Syria.

The US raised the stakes significantly yesterday when a senior US official said Washington has made a preliminary conclusion that Russian Federation knew in advance of Syria's chemical weapons attack.

Meeting allies earlier Tuesday in Italy, Tillerson delivered an ultimatum to Russia: Side either with the US and its dozens of coalition partners or face the isolation of a partnership with Assad, Iran and Hezbollah.

"Russia is on an island", Spicer said. Everyone wants to restore relations in the Western community after - thanks to the former United States administration - many European countries adopted an anti-Trump position during the election campaign. Even if Moscow cooperates, the allegations of election meddling have weakened the USA leader's hand to deliver on any significant carrot, such as a loosening of the US and European economic sanctions stemming from Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"Based on these considerations, on April 6, the president directed military action consistent with our vital national interests to deter the use of chemical weapons", he said. Trump's cruise missile order restored the believability of Washington using its military might in Syria. He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons. Or he can hold back and risk losing face like Obama.

Putin seems undeterred. Hours after Tillerson's warning, his office announced Russian Federation would host Syria and Iran's foreign ministers for a three-way meeting Friday, the day after Tillerson departs.

  • Leroy Wright