World News: Syria Crisis: Russia raises Prospect of War if it is given G7 ultimatum as it mocks Bori
Russia and Iran have threatened military retaliation against the US, accusing Donald Trump of crossing “red lines” by ordering a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base.
The two military allies of Syria said the US bombardment had violated international law and, in a statement, added: “From now on we will respond with force.”
The warning came after the Russian embassy in the UK suggested that British and American attempts to deliver an ultimatum to the Kremlin this week could result in a “real war”.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is understood to be working on a proposal from the G7 group of nations which will demand that Vladimir Putin remove his troops from Syria and drop his backing for Bashar al-Assad. Mr Johnson cancelled plans to visit Moscow this week to work on the proposal – which The Daily Telegraph understands will include a tacit offer to Russia to rejoin the G7 if it complies. On Sunday Russia mocked Mr Johnson, saying his refusal to visit was “deplorable” and, in a series of jibes on Twitter, questioned whether he would make a fit wartime lieutenant to the American president. The threat from Russian and Iranian forces came as Washington intensified pressure on Assad and his backers, with Mr Trump’s administration saying there was now “no way” a peace settlement could be found with the Syrian dictator in power.In a significant change of stance towards regime change in Syria, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said last week’s missile strikes were designed to let Russia know “we’re not going to have you cover for this regime any more”.HR McMaster, White House national security adviser, said Russia and Iran were enabling Assad’s “campaign of mass murder against his own civilians” and America was “prepared to do more”.Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, said Washington would expect Russia to rethink its support for Assad because “every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility”.However, a joint command centre made up of forces from Russia, Iran and militias supporting Assad said they would redouble their backing, after 59 US cruise missiles hit Shayrat air base in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.A statement from the centre said: “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”The joint command centre also said the presence of US troops in northern Syria, where Washington has hundreds of special forces helping the Syrian Democratic Forces to oust the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, was “illegal” and that Washington had a long-term plan to occupy the area.In a separate phone call between Moscow and Tehran, Mr Putin and Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said that US aggression against Syria violated international law.The two leaders also called for an investigation into the nerve gas attack in Idlib province, which Syria has claimed was caused by a stockpile of rebel-held chemical weapons being hit by a stray bomb, and said they were ready to deepen co-operation to fight terrorism.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, also accused America of making a “strategic mistake” by attacking Syria and said the country would not back down.Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, said Mr Johnson looked “daft” for pulling out of a meeting with the Russians in Moscow.He told the Andrew Marr Show: “What is the argument for not going ahead with a visit?“Rex Tillerson is going on Wednesday so it can’t be that we have moved to a Cold War position of no talking whatsoever.“The idea the Foreign Secretary can’t be trusted because he might pursue his own line or have an independent thought or crossover what the Americans are going to say just makes him look like some sort of mini-me to the United States of America.”It came as Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, warned Russia it is responsible for the deaths caused by the Syrian chemical weapons attack "by proxy".Writing in the Sunday Times, Sir Michael said: "Russia must show the resolve necessary to bring this regime to heel. The Russians have influence in the region."They helped broker the original deal to put chemical weapons out of commission. This latest war crime happened on their watch…“By proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week. If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments, to dismantle Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal for good, and to get fully engaged with the UN peacekeeping progress."Mr Johnson announced the cancellation of his trip to Russia - the first a Foreign Secretary would have made in half a decade - in a statement posted online.“Developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally,” Mr Johnson said, adding he would instead focus on building “co-ordinated international support for a ceasefire on the ground and an intensified political process”.He said attempts to secure a “clear and co-ordinated message to the Russians” over Syria will be the focus of the G7 meeting.The group - made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and America - had included Russia under the G8 label until 2014, when it left after the annexation of Crimea.A Foreign Office source said: “It has been noticeable this week that both Tillerson and Trump have said there is no future for Assad. One strand of what could come out of the G7 is that we say Assad has to go."Mr Johnson would be “hitting the phone” to ensure a “very strong and very hard-hitting” statement is agreed over Russia’s involvement in Syria, the source added.