There is broad support among G7 ministers for the Geneva peace process on a political transition in Syria, which would force President Bashar Assad to step down, an anonymous high-level state department official said, speaking to reporters Sunday after a G7 ministerial meeting in Toronto.
According to the official, Washington has no plans to provide Damascus with any support for reconstruction. "The United States does not believe that any reconstruction assistance should go to any areas under the control of the Assad regime," he said.
Governments and economists have estimated that it would take hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild Syria after hostilities are concluded. On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged that Tehran would help Syria with reconstruction. Earlier this year, Russia urged European nations to help the war-torn country rebuild following the war. The United States froze a $200 million aid commitment late last month amid the president's talk of a Syrian pullout.
The US and its European allies have vacillated on whether or not to recognize the UN-recognized Syrian government. Last month, President Trump hinted that the US may be pulling out of Syria entirely after Daesh (ISIS)* is defeated. But on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France and its allies must stay in the country and "build a new Syria" after the war against the terrorists is finished.
Russia's Responsibilities and Western Airstrikes
The state department official also accused Russia of "failing" in its responsibility to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. "On Syria, the ministers recalled that Russia is the guarantor of the chemical weapons in Syria and have failed in that role," he said, referring to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7. Syrian and Russian officials described that attack as a false flag used to justify Western airstrikes. Syria completed the elimination of its chemical weapons stocks in 2014 in a deal brokered by Russia and verified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan participates in the #G7 Foreign Ministers’ Working Session on the Middle East, hosted by @cafreeland in Toronto, Canada. Follow @usconstoronto for updates from the G-7. More photos: https://t.co/Mr9T83uo1E pic.twitter.com/IwKXB4QUQj— Department of State (@StateDept) 22 апреля 2018 г.
Commenting on the April 14 missile strikes, the US official said that this was "not a one-off, but … part of a sustained allied campaign to reestablish the deterrent against chemical weapons."
US, British and French warships and aircraft launched over 100 cruise missiles against multiple targets in Syria on the morning of April 14, hours before OPCW inspectors arrived to investigate the alleged Douma attack. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, 71 of the missiles were intercepted by Syria's air defenses.
Russia's 'Malign Behavior'
Turning to Russia, the official stressed that the G7 was united in "opposing" the country's "malign behavior." "There was also openness among G7 members to dialogue with Russia while we hold them accountable for their malign activities and their efforts to destabilize nations," he said.
Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan participates in the #G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, hosted by @cafreeland in Toronto, Canada, April 22-23. Follow @usconstoronto for updates from the G-7. More photos: https://t.co/Mr9T83uo1E pic.twitter.com/XYeIaPBqkJ— Department of State (@StateDept) 23 апреля 2018 г.
The two-day G7 meeting running from April 22-23 in Toronto, Canada, is the first since the US, French and British attack on Syria following the alleged Douma chemical attack. The G7 includes the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada and is touted as comprising the largest advanced economies in the world.
*A terrorist group banned in Russia.