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    British Foreign Minister and leading Brexit supporter Boris Johnson gives a joint press conference with Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (not in picture) following talks in Budapest on March 2, 2018.

    'Suck and Blow at Once': UK FM Boris Johnson's Oscillation on Russia in Syria

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    From "lifeline for murderous regime" to catalyst for "political settlement," the assessment of Russia's role in Syria by the UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has seen some turns in the last couple of years.

    Since he assumed the position of Britain's top diplomat in July 2016 and even before that, when he was still mayor of London, Mr. Johnson has issued a number of statements assessing Russia's relations with the Syrian leadership and Russia's role in the region.

    The latest manifestation of Johnson's estimation came on May 10 when he called on Russia to sway its influence in Syria and "press" its partners to "work towards a broader political settlement."

    His comments come following launch of Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria. The attack, according to Israel, was a response to rockets allegedly fired by Iranian forces.

    "We also continue to call on Russia to use its influence to press those in Syria to cease their destabilizing activity and work towards a broader political settlement," Johnson said.

    His comments echoed a statement Johnson made in 2016, when he highlighted Russia's crucial role in the region, saying "Russia has a unique opportunity to persuade the Syrian regime to end" what he viewed as "destructive military approach." 

    READ MORE: Johnson Urges Russia to Push Sides to Syrian Conflict to End 'Destabilization'

    Last month Johnson was quizzed on the British-Russian relations following the airstrikes launched by UK, US and France in Syria on April 14, 2018. He responded saying Britain doesn't seek worsening of relations with Moscow "any more than we relish carrying out the strikes in Syria yesterday."

    "We want to engage with Russia, but I'm afraid the Russians give us every possible signal and evidence that we have to beware of them."

    In his turn the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out at the same time that "Boris Johnson, or our (British) partners don't want to listen to or even hear us."

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
    © Sputnik / Alexey Filippov
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

    How Things Were

    In 2015 the then London mayor, Boris Johnson addressed Britain's relationship with Russia when it comes to Syria in a news article titled "Let's deal with the Devil: we should work with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad in Syria."

    He argued that it was time to "set aside our Cold War mindset" and recalled the sentiment of the French, following his visit to Paris.

    "Many French people think the time has come to do a deal with their new friends the Russians — and I think that they are broadly right."

    He then admitted that he is "no particular fan of Vlad" but stressed the value of Russia's role in defeating Daesh in Syria.

    "With Russian air support, the Assad regime is only a few miles from Palmyra — the fabled pink-stoned city of monuments, where Isil decapitated the 82-year-old curator, Khaled Al‑Assad, before beginning an orgy of cultural destruction. Am I backing the Assad regime, and the Russians, in their joint enterprise to recapture that amazing site? You bet I am. That does not mean I trust Putin, and it does not mean that I want to keep Assad in power indefinitely. But we cannot suck and blow at once," Johnson wrote.

    How Things Changed

    A promotion to the Cabinet later, Mr. Johnson's rhetoric has changed drastically in April 2017. Now the UK Foreign Minister, he intensified his criticism of Russia, accusing the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of being a "lifeline for the murderous Syrian regime."

    Johnson's harsh words followed his failure to win backing from other G7 nations for further economic sanctions on Russia after it blocked a UN resolution pertaining to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

    The British FM said Russia faces a choice of continuing to act "as a lifeline for Assad's murderous regime, or it could live up to its responsibilities as a global power, and use its influence over the regime to bring six long years of failed ceasefires and false dawns to an end".

    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive for a meeting during the NATO summit of heads of state and government, at the NATO headquarters, in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017
    © AP Photo / Thierry Charlier/Pool
    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive for a meeting during the NATO summit of heads of state and government, at the NATO headquarters, in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017

    Throughout his term as Britain's Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson has faced calls for resignations on numerous occasions.

    READ MORE: A Breacher, a Novice and a Liar Walk Into a British Government…

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    statements, diplomacy, Syrian crisis, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Syria, Russia, United Kingdom
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