Western trio warns Syria over chemical weapons use

National security adviser John Bolton warned Thursday that the USA will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections, attempting to reaffirm the administration's strong opposition to Moscow's influence over the democratic process after President Donald Trump failed to raise the issue during his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin last month.

Trump's envoy suggested the US would work together with the Russian military to achieve the goal of a complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria and said he would bring up the issue with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev during a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

Patrushev said after the meeting in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that he and Bolton didn't agree on a joint statement because the USA wanted to mention the alleged Russian meddling in the US election. "But just so that there's no confusion here, if they Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly", Bolton said.

It was the first high-level meeting since Donald Trump's ill-fated summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said yesterday that Mr Trump wanted maximum pressure on Iran.

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Bolton voiced support for Israeli strikes in recent months on Syrian sites where Iranian-supplied missiles and other "threatening weapons" had been deployed.

After a five-hour meeting in Geneva with Putin adviser Nikolai Patrushev, Bolton said that USA options include extending the 2010 New Start accord negotiated by President Barack Obama, renegotiating it or returning to the agreement it replaced - the one-page Moscow Treaty signed in 2002 by President George W. Bush. Senior Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami warned that the price of a war with Iran would be very high for the US.

In a joint statement, the 3 powers said they were "gravely concerned" over the military offensive in Idlib and the resulting humanitarian consequences.

The Trump administration is not discussing USA recognition of Israel's claim of sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Russian Federation and Iran have both provided vital military support for Bashar Al-Assad, who now has the upper hand in the seven-year war. "So we're obviously going to talk to him about what role they can play". Bolton is a fervent critic of Iran's leadership, saying it supports terrorism, and has defended the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal involving Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Bolton said the timetable for revealing the highly-anticipated Trump peace proposal has not yet been decided upon. Expanding on Trump and Putin's discussion of the issue, the two national security advisers talked about a "series of steps" to advance this objective, he says, without elaborating. Bolton added that any agreement would be ultimately up to the parties themselves and not something forced by the United States.

  • Joey Payne