USA TODAY - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Russia must choose between aligning itself with the U.S. and other Western nations or Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and the militant group Hezbollah.
Tillerson was speaking Tuesday in the walled city of Lucca in Italy where he was attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations.
The U.S. blames Assad for a chemical attack in Syria last week that killed more than 80 people and prompted President Trump to order a missile strike against a Syrian airbase in retaliation.
“We cannot let this happen again," Tillerson said of the chemical attack.
“We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role. Or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests longer term," he told reporters.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano says there was “no consensus” among ministers attending the meeting for new sanctions on Russia and Syria over its support for Assad, the Associated Press reported.
It came after British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for the G7 to consider new sanctions against the two allies in response to the chemical attack.
The ministers agreed there was no solution to the six-year-old civil war in Syria with Assad in power, the BBC reported.
Tillerson is due to travel onward to Moscow on Tuesday on a two-day visit where he is expected to meet with officials including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters Monday that Putin had no plans to meet with Tillerson. However some Russian media reported Tuesday that the two would meet.
Russia's foreign ministry said it hoped for constructive talks with the secretary of State.
"In the course of the forthcoming talks we would like to realize first and foremost to what extent the United States is aware of the need for stabilization and normalization of bilateral relations," the ministry said in a statement carried by the TASS news agency.
Russia is also hoping Tillerson's trip will help it better understand Washington’s plans for North Korea, TASS reported.
Copyright 2017 USA TODAY