Updated at 4.05pm
BRITAIN’S FOREIGN SECRETARY Boris Johnson has cancelled a scheduled visit to Moscow next week, saying “developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally”.
“My priority is now to continue contact with the US and others in the run up to the G7 meeting on 10-11 April,” said Johnson, who was due to travel to Moscow on Monday.
“We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” added Johnson.
He then called on Russia to do “everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated”.
“I discussed these plans in detail with Secretary Tillerson,” Johnson said, adding that the US foreign minister would still visit Moscow as planned following the G7 meeting to “deliver that clear and co-ordinated message to the Russians”.
Earlier, the US warned it is ready to hit Syria again after the missile strike that infuriated Moscow and fueled calls for a push to end the six-year war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley delivered the warning at an emergency session of the UN Security Council called after the US strikes, which were launched to punish an alleged chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Russia, meanwhile, declared President Donald Trump’s first strike against the Damascus regime a violation of international law and an “act of aggression.”
“The United States took a very measured step last night,” Haley told the council.
We are prepared to do more, but we hope it will not be necessary.
Haley said the strike destroyed an air field from which Washington believes Damascus launched the attack on rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, where 86 people including 27 children died this week.
Rights monitors warned, however, that Syrian jets were already flying sorties from the base again as night fell yesterday.
The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from warships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria.
Assad’s office called the strike “foolish and irresponsible,” and Moscow announced a series of retaliatory steps including plans to strengthen Syrian air defenses.
“The United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences,” Haley said.
Those days are over.
Russia accuses US
The United States did not seek UN Security Council authorisation for the military action that followed days of global outrage at images of dead children from the suspected sarin gas attack.
It was Trump’s biggest military decision since taking office and marked a dramatic escalation in American involvement in Syria’s protracted war.
“The United States attacked the territory of sovereign Syria,” Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council, denouncing a “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Florida to attend a summit between Trump and China’s Xi Jinping, is due in Moscow next week for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
“I’m disappointed in that response from the Russians because it indicates their continued support for the Assad regime,” said Tillerson.
“In particular,” he said, the response showed the Kremlin’s “continued support for a regime that carries out these kinds of horrendous attacks on their own people.
“I find it very disappointing but — sadly, I have to tell you — not all that surprising.”
In Washington, a senior US official said Syria may have had help carrying out the alleged chemical attack, but stopped short of accusing Russia of complicity.