“This is not an aggressive stance towards Russia, rather a hand out-held, with clear intentions,” the French Foreign Affairs Minister said.
The message the group intends to send to Russia, according to Ayrault, is this: “That’s enough now. There must be an end to hypocrisy and a very clear return to the political process.”
Ayrault spoke at the end of a two-day G7 meeting, during which foreign ministers agreed that no peace solution to the ongoing civil war in Syria can be reached while the country’s president, Russian ally Bashar al-Assad, is still in power.
The French minister’s comments came the same day that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had participated in the G7 meeting, headed to Moscow to meet with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Tillerson is the first senior Trump administration official to visit Russia since the US president took office. His visit comes after Moscow criticised the US for firing 59 missiles against a Syrian military base last week. Six Syrian soldiers and a dozen civilians were killed in the attack, according to Syrian officials.
The US military action was in response to a chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun for which Washington has blamed Damascus. Some 90 people were killed, including dozens of children, and hundreds injured.
Disagreement over sanctions
While the G7 ministers have reached a consensus that no peace solution in Syria can be achieved while Assad stays in power, they have failed to agree on whether to impose new sanctions on Syria and its Russian ally.
During the Italy meeting, Britain’s Boris Johnson had raised the question of “further sanctions on some of the Syrian military figures and some of the Russian military figures who have been involved in coordinating the Syrian military efforts.” This according to Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.
Ayrault has confirmed Johnson’s comment, but said that the diplomats had not discussed it in depth.
The G7 is comprised of foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States (US).