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G7 foreign ministers seek pressure on Russia and Iran

RUSSIA / IRAN (OBSERVATORY) –¬†Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations on Sunday discussed ways of pressuring Russia over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine that have seriously damaged Moscow’s relations with the West.

It was the first high-level meeting of allies since the United States, France and Britain fired 105 rockets at what it said were chemical weapons facilities in Syria in response to a suspected poison gas attack on April 7.

The United States said its priorities also include Iran’s “malicious” activities in the region and the ending of North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Western countries blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, for the attack, which put the seven-year-old conflict in Syria at the forefront of international concerns. The Syrian government and its ally Russia denies involvement in the attack or the use of poison gas on April 7.

The talks, due to close on Monday, will help prepare for the summit of G7 leaders scheduled for Canada in early June.

The Group of Seven major industrialized nations include the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.

The group condemned last week what it said was a Russian attack with nerve gas in Britain. A senior official from one of the group countries said the ministers were very concerned about what the group saw as a pattern of bad Russian behavior for years.

Russia denies any involvement in the gas attack on British soil in March.

Western countries have imposed a wide range of sanctions on Russia in the past few years after annexing the Crimea and supporting militants operating in eastern Ukraine and backing the Syrian president.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin participated in some meetings in Toronto. He held a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on Saturday, in which the United States pledged to support Kiev but asked for economic reforms, a US delegate said.

Diplomats familiar with the meeting said the ministers would not consider additional sanctions against Moscow because Britain, France, Germany and Italy are members of the 28-nation European Union, which must collectively agree on any steps that may be taken.

The US official said the allies would also discuss the latest developments with European partners France, Germany and Britain on the modernization of a nuclear deal between Iran and the six major powers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday Iran’s atomic energy organization was ready for “predictable and unexpected” reactions if the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal signed in 2015 in Vienna.