Russia knew in advance of Syrian chemical attack

Though meant to punish Assad for a chemical weapons attack, the USA strikes last week served to refocus the world's attention on the bloody war in Syria, now in its seventh year.

Even since the missile strikes, signals have been mixed.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Tillerson criticised Russia's support for the Syrian government and questioned its apparent inability to prevent the chemical attack in Idlib province, which prompted the U.S. air strikes.

The White House said Mr Trump had also called German leader Angela Merkel to discuss Syria and the regime's use of "weapons of mass destruction against civilian men, women, and children". The Syrian government has denied it was behind the assault.

The US president's spokesman Sean Spicer warned on Monday that further action would be considered in certain circumstances.

But US officials later walked back Spicer's remarks. The senior official said it still wasn't clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital.

"The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest", Mattis said, describing the strike as a "measured response".

The foreign ministers' discussions will prepare the way for a G7 leaders' summit in Sicily at the end of May, which looks set to be Trump's first overseas trip since becoming president.

The attention on Syria comes in the wake of USA missile strikes on President Bashar Assad's military.

"The prime minister and the president 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", the spokesman said.

"They agreed that US Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson's visit to Moscow this week provides an opportunity to make progress towards a solution which will deliver a lasting political settlement".

The move came as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that s enior Russian military officers involved in co-ordinating President Assad's campaign of repression against his own people could face global sanctions.

At a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Lucca, Italy, Mr Johnson issued a fresh appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon his backing for his Syrian ally following last week's chemical weapons attack.

The annual two-day meeting had initially been expected to focus on talks with Tillerson about hotspots like Libya, Iran and Ukraine.

Until Trump ordered USA missile strikes on a Syrian air base in response to the nerve gas attack that killed more than 80, the president had focused on defeating the Islamic State group and had shown no appetite for challenging Assad - and, by extension, his Russian supporter President Vladimir Putin.

Washington's missile strike was the first time it had intervened directly against the regime of Assad, who is fighting a civil war with the backing of Russian Federation and Iran.

Several rounds of UN-backed peace talks have failed to end the conflict, which has killed more than 320,000 people since March 2011.

Iran and North Korea have slammed Washington's retaliation and put it on a direct diplomatic collision course with Moscow, where Tillerson heads today for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Johnson on yesterday called on Moscow to do "everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the global community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated".

At Tuesday's meeting in the walled Tuscan city of Lucca, the G-7 countries were joined by diplomats from Muslim-majority nations including Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Trump said his father's action on Syria showed he was not tied to Russian Federation, as some critics claim. I can tell you he is tough and he won't be pushed around.

Japan hopes the strong United States response on Syria will also put pressure on Pyongyang, which is showing signs of preparing for its sixth nuclear test and more test-firings of ballistic missiles.

"We agreed that the role of China is extremely important".

Meanwhile Tillerson and Haley have made differing statements on how the United States plans to deal with Syrian leader Assad.

USA officials originally said 58 of the 59 missiles fired Friday had "severely degraded or destroyed" their original target, including 20 planes which they said were taken out in the strike.

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