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Boris Johnson calls off Moscow visit over Syria

BBC, AFP

The UK foreign secretary has called off a visit to Moscow in the wake of the Syrian chemical weapons attack.

Boris Johnson, who was set to travel on Monday, said the situation had changed “fundamentally” and his priority was to continue contact with the US to provide international support for a ceasefire.

He said the UK called on Russia to do everything possible to bring about a “political settlement in Syria”.

“We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime,” he added.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow as planned after the G7 meeting on 10-11 April.

Mr Johnson said he was working to bring together other “like-minded partners” to “explore next steps soon”.

Mr Tillerson would be able to deliver a “clear and co-ordinated message to the Russians” after the meeting between the world’s leading seven industrialised nations, he said.

He called on Russia to work with the rest of the international community to “ensure the shocking events of the last week are never repeated”.

Hospital bombed in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, after a suspected toxic gas attack.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionDestruction at a hospital in Idlib province, where an attack took place on Tuesday

Eighty-nine people, including 33 children and 18 women, died in a suspected nerve agent attack in the Syrian, rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday.

The figures come from Idlib’s opposition-run health authority.

The country’s government denies using nerve gas.

Weapons base

On Friday, the US carried out missile strikes on a Syrian air base it says is suspected of storing chemical weapons. At least six people are reported to have died.

In response, Syria’s ally Russia accused the US of encouraging “terrorists” with unilateral actions.

Moscow has further promised to strengthen Syria’s anti-aircraft defences and it is shutting down a hotline with the US designed to avoid collisions between their air forces over the country.

A child treated after an attack in Syria on TuesdayImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThirty-three children were said to be among those injured

Mr Johnson’s visit, for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, would have been the first visit by a UK foreign secretary in more than five years.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the cancellation meant Boris had “revealed himself to be a poodle of Washington, having his diary managed from across the pond.”

He added: “It is pretty shameful when even Trump judges you to be a buffoon.”

The government was “quick to blindly follow every order from the Trump White House”, he said.

Source: BBC

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