Vladimir Putin has received criticism over his support of Syria despite claims president Bashar al-Assad was behind a suspected chemical attack which killed at least 70 people in the country’s northern Idlib province last week.
Russia was suspended from the G7 – then known as the G8 – in 2014 and it is understood Putin as a desire to regain his membership in the elite political forum.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, is set to fly to Moscow later this week and according to reports he could be bringing with him an ultimatum from the G7 – of which the America and the UK are members – demanding that Putin withdraws his armed forces and ends his support for Assad.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is understood to want to regain his membership with the G7
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, earlier announced he had cancelled talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow, in a bid to focus on Syria.
It is said he plans to use the time to push G7 nations at a meeting later this week to back demands that Russia withdraws its forces from Syria.
But Government sources have alleged that diplomats have also been working to entice Putin with the possibility of regaining his place at the G7.
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A child receiving treatment at a field hospital after an alleged chemical attack in Idlib, northen Syria
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Russia was suspended from the then-G8 over its annexation of Crimea
I do not believe the Russians want to have worsening relations with the US
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State,
One Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “I think Tillerson will be able to travel to Russia with some very clear direction that if Putin wants to have a seat back at the top table of international affairs he has to get rid of Assad.
“We have to give him an exit strategy that allows him to save face. Ultimatums don’t tend to work with the Russians. But he can see that Syria is becoming more of a liability than an asset.
“If he were to force Assad out he could make it clear that Russia was committed to rebuilding Syria, which is in Russia’s interests.”
The suspected chemical attack prompted US President Donald Trump to launch an missile strike on the Middle East nation in retaliation.
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Trump ordered a massive military strike against a Syria
But Russia and Assad’s government have denied that Syrian forces used chemical weapons and according to Kremlin new agencies, a spokesman for Putin said the strike had caused “significant damage to US-Russian ties”.
Speaking after the strike, Mr Tillerson said: "I have not seen any hard evidence that connects the Russians directly to the planning or execution of this attack.
"To our knowledge we do not have any information to suggest that Russia was part of it."
He added: "I do not believe the Russians want to have worsening relations with the US, but it is going to take a lot of dialogue to better understand what is the relationship that Russia wants to have with the US."
Referring to Putin’s 2013 pledge to ensure Syria gave up its chemical weapons, Tillerson continued: “Why Russia has not been able to achieve that is unclear to me. I don’t draw conclusions of complicity at all, but clearly they have been incompetent, and perhaps they have simply been outmanoeuvred by the Syrians.”
Russia has insisted it would “respond to any aggression” including further US air strikes, but military analysts reportedly believe Putin will want to avoid any direct clashes with the “superior” American military.
Last week, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov had also stressed that despite strong cooperation between Russia and Syria “unconditional support is not possible in this current world”.