Syria, Russia to top agenda as G7 ministers meet

The meeting in the Tuscan city of Lucca on Monday will focus on simmering tensions between Russian Federation and the West over the conflict in Syria, just days after USA airstrikes on Syrian government forces raised questions about Washington's strategy.

In a shift in Washington's strategy, U.S. missiles hit a Syrian air base last week in retaliation for what Washington and its allies say was a poison gas attack by Syria's military in which scores of civilians died.

However, Tillerson said in television interviews that aired Sunday that the top US priority in the region remains the defeat of Islamic State militants. Various news reports said that coalition released a statement with a warning: "From now on we will respond to anyone, including America, if it attacks Syria and crosses the red lines". It was the first time that the USA had struck the Syrian regime since the start of the six-year civil war.

"We agreed that the role of China is extremely important. That is why we are here to work all together for peace and liberty". Nor did Lavrov cancel Tillerson's visit to Moscow, suggesting Russian Federation may be willing to tolerate the single strike.

"It just - if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad".

The United States is suggesting its true objective was to send a political message: that long-term peace in Syria will require changes in government, and the countries backing Bashar Assad should stop.

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Tillerson was more equivocal about Assad's future on Sunday. Securing a Russian commitment on eliminating Assad's chemical weapons is likely to be first on his agenda, said Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. Then Trump, the day after the assault, said his thinking about Assad had changed. "Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out", Haley had told reporters on March 30.

The uncertain view of USA objectives prevailed as Tillerson planned to attend a meeting Tuesday of the "likemindeds" - countries that share a similar approach to resolving Syria's protracted civil war.

The G7 gathering in the Tuscan city of Lucca brought foreign ministers from the United States as well as Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan to the 15th century Ducal Palace. "Both sides emphasized that such aggressive actions against a sovereign independent country are a flagrant violation of global law, above all, the UN Charter, create threats for regional security and impair the fight against worldwide terrorism".

But there was no escaping the here and now, with last week's deadly chemical-weapons attack in Syria still fresh on everyone's mind, and nuclear-armed North Korea engaged in a new round of sabre-rattling.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he told Tillerson that Tokyo supports the U.S. in its push to "deter the spread and use of chemical weapons", and discussed the pressing North Korean nuclear threat.

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