Canada provides lukewarm support for fresh sanctions on Russia and Syria after chemical attack

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, said while Canada was 'looking closely' at fresh sanction it was important to go through the necessary legal steps

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Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has provided lukewarm support for fresh sanctions on Russia for its continued support of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

While Ms Freeland said Canada would not be "hesitant" in applying new sanctions on individuals in Russia and Syria, she added it was important to go through the necessary legal steps “to assure ourselves we are targeting the right people for the right reasons”.

It comes after a meeting of the G7 allies – Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, US, UK, and the EU – in Italy to discuss the possibility of sanctions on military figures in the two counties in the wake of nerve gas attack in the Idlib province of Syria last week.

Asked whether sanctions will have a role in the effort to persuade Vladimir Putin to drop his support for Assad, the Canadian foreign minister replied: “The G7 countries separately have strong sanctions against Russia and strong sanctions against Syria. It’s something certainly we in Canada are looking at closely and I imagine our G7 allies will be as well.”

But pressed further on the issue on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme Ms Freeland added: “Certainly the Canadian position is that we are looking very carefully at additional sanction.

“From Canada I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we are hesitant but it’s important for us in our sanctions process to go through all the necessary legal steps to assure ourselves we are targeting the right people for the right reasons.”

Describing the chemical attack in the Syrian village of Khan Sheikhoun last week as “war crime”, Ms Freeland added there was now a consensus among the G7 over the role of Assad.

“I think it is really clear now Assad has no role in the medium and long term, peaceful future of Syria – that’s an important message for Assad’s patrons in Moscow to hear,” she added.

Her comments come as the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Moscow later on Tuesday. He had hoped to take with him a definite statement of intent from the G7 nations and other partners, including Middle Eastern allies who are at the Lucca meeting.

But it now appears unclear how prominent new sanctions will feature in the meeting with Russian officials as Mr Tillerson attempts to persuade Mr Putin’s government to drop its support for the Syrian dictator.

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