Boris Johnson calls off Moscow visit over Syria

Indo Asian News Service

London, April 8 (IANS) British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called off a visit to Moscow in the wake of the Syrian chemical weapons attack, a media report said.

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, reported BBC on Saturday.

He said Britain 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 in Tuscany, Italy, on April 10-11.

Johnson said he was working to bring together other "like-minded partners" to "explore next steps soon", according to the report.

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

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

According to reports, 89 people, including 33 children and 18 women, died in a suspected nerve agent attack in the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun earlier this week.

The country's government denied using nerve gas.

On Friday, the US carried out missile strikes on a Syrian airbase it said was suspected of storing chemical weapons. At least six people were reported to have died.

In response, Syria's ally Russia accused the US of encouraging "terrorists" with unilateral actions.

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, BBC reported.

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.