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Russian officers could face sanctions over Syria

Russian officers could face sanctions over Syria

Tillerson's visit to Europe has been overshadowed from the start by President Donald Trump's decision to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons by launching cruise missiles at a Syrian air base.

However Washington's Syria policy remains unclear to many, with Mr Tillerson saying that there had been "no change to our military posture" in Syria following the U.S. airbase strike and that Washington's "first priority" was to defeat so-called Islamic State (IS).

In a joint statement, allies of President Assad's government described the strikes - carried out in response to a chemical attack on civilians - as an aggression on Syria.

When asked about Washington's anti-Russia sanctions, the US Secretary of State said "there is no reason to be lifting sanctions".

The night after the USA military launched missiles into a Syrian air base, protests brewed across the country.

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US missiles sent in reprisal for a suspected chemical attack in Idlib has damaged around 20% of Syria's aircraft, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said. "That choice is to stick like glue to the Assad regime - that toxic regime which poisons its own people and is indeed poisoning the reputation of Russian Federation - or to work with the rest of world to find a political solution", he said.

Tillerson would "deliver that clear and coordinated message to the Russians", he said.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied involvement in the chemical attack unleashed on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday (4 April) that killed 89 people.

Russian Federation will also be offered a greater role in worldwide affairs should it end its support for President Assad, in what Foreign Office sources described as "a carrot and stick approach", he added.

That trip, too, is fraught with tension over Syria: Mr Tillerson has blamed Russia, Mr Assad's strongest ally, of either complicity or incompetence for allowing Mr Assad to possess and use chemical weapons.

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And he backed his statements by launching 59 Tomahawk missiles on late Thursday which damaged the Syrian airbase badly. Donald Trump, he started to show Assad the real America", he added. "It crossed a lot of lines for me".

"Part of the discussions when I visit Moscow next week is to call upon Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russian government to fulfill the obligation it made to the worldwide community when it agreed to be the guarantor of the elimination of the chemical weapons and why Russia has not been able to achieve that is unclear to me".

Russia's failures to rid Syria of weapons stockpiles "has led to the killing of more children and innocents", he said.

Turnbull's comments reiterate support he expressed on Friday for the United States military action in Syria following the "abhorrent" chemical weapons attack.

Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano, who is hosting the talks, discussed the situation in Syria in a telephone phone call with his Iranian counterpart. At best, the missile attack will not change anything in Syria.

In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" that aired April 9, Tillerson said the USA priority remains defeating Islamic State, rather than forcing Assad out. And as our own Scott Clement noted Friday, actions like the one Trump took often gain more support after the fact.

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