WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May have agreed that a "window of opportunity" exists to convince Russia to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump made a phone call to May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and they discussed America's response to the suspected chemical attack by the Syrian regime in which 87 people, including 31 children, were killed.
May and Merkel, in two separate calls with Trump, expressed support for the action of the US and agreed with Trump on the importance of holding Assad accountable, the White House said. "The Prime Minister and the president agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest," May's spokesperson said in London.
Trump and his counterparts agreed to stay in touch on Syria and discuss other international issues of mutual concern, it added.
Meanwhile, the White House refuted reports that Russia had prior information about the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime last week. "At this time, there is no US Intelligence Community consensus that Russia had foreknowledge of the Syrian chemical attack," a senior administration official said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US and Russia have a common interest in defeating the Islamic State militant group. "We have a shared interest particularly in the area of ISIS. If we can defeat them and if we can work with them on a plan to defeat them, then we're going to do it," he said. "The President came into office to really focus on two fronts: keeping our country safe and growing our economy and putting people back to work," Spicer said.
"If Russia or any other country can help us achieve those two goals, either through market access on additional products and services from the US into a major marketplace, but more importantly help to keep our country safe through a combined effort to defeat something like the ISIS, especially in a place like Syria where they're playing so prominently, then I think we want to work with them," Spicer said.
"But if we can't get a deal with them, then, the President's not going to be disappointed. But he would like to do what he can to work with these individuals to make it happen," Spicer said.
In a letter to Trump, two Republican lawmakers Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Peter Roskam urged him to suspend aircraft sales to Iran arguing that Tehran is using commercial passenger aircraft to supply its worldwide network of terror proxies, including the Assad regime in Syria.
"We urge you to suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity," they said in a letter to Trump.
"The United States should revoke authorisations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar US companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes," the letter said.
Senator Jack Reed supported the US move of the missile strike against the Assad regime. "It was important to respond to the despicable behaviour of the Syrian regime, Assad regime, but it hasn't changed the facts on the ground, which is that Assad controls significant territory. There's Russian support," Reed was quoted as saying by CNN.
"But in terms of stopping, the chemical weapons attacks against the people of Syria, I hope it succeeds," he said.