LONDON: Washington is preparing new economic sanctions on Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his continuing use of chemical weapons, the US envoy to the United Nations said on Sunday.
Ambassador Nikki Haley said the new sanctions, to be announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday, targets Russian companies that are “dealing with equipment related to Assad and any chemical weapons use.”
Russia needs to feel the consequences for protecting the Assad regime, Haley told CBS’ “Face the Nation”.
She pointed out that Russia has vetoed six resolutions in the UN Security Council regarding Syria's chemical weapons.
The fact that Assad was making the use of chemical weapons “more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop,” she said.
Syrian opposition activists and first responders say a chemical attack on the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital, killed more than 40 people on April 7.
Haley also said that the US will not have any one-on-one talks with Assad.
She said Syria had so far refused to take part in multilateral negotiations as part of a political process facilitated by the United Nations, adding that Russia should “deliver” Syria to the negotiating table.
But she said Syria was not “worthy” of direct talks with Washington: “We are not going to have any one-on-one talks with Assad.”
Call for resumption of talks
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, meanwhile, called for a resumption of Syrian peace talks, which took place in Vienna in 2015, to halt the bloodshed in the devastated country.
Kurz said no military solution appeared possible in the conflict which had already caused massive suffering for the Syrian people.
“After the shocking use of chemical weapons on April 7 and the recent Western military action in Syria, it is now the order of the day to remember reason and to press ahead with the diplomatic peace process with all necessary vigour,” Kurz said in a statement on Sunday.
“The Syrian population had already suffered too much with over 400,000 deaths and over five million refugees outside Syria.”
Kurz said there could be no military solution to the conflict and therefore appealed “to all responsible actors” to continue the peace talks of the ‘International Syria Support Group’ took place between 20 different groups in Vienna in 2015.
A further escalation of the Syrian “proxy war” or even a direct military conflict between the US and Russia must be prevented by all means, Kurz added in a statement received by Reuters.
Austria has a long tradition as a place of dialogue and a bridge builder in conflicts, most recently in the Iranian nuclear deal, he said, with Austria ready to host talks over Syria at any time.
Since Kurz, a conservative, formed a coalition government with the far-right and pro-Putin Freedom Party in December, Austria had repeatedly said it wants to serve as a “bridge-builder” between east and west.
It repeated that position when it declined to follow most other EU countries in expelling one or several Russian diplomats over the poisoning by nerve agent of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Britain has blamed the attack on Russia but Vienna said it wanted to keep lines of communication with Moscow open.