Tuesday 20 February 2018

May warns the Kremlin of more sanctions over Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive for a statement prior to a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrive for a statement prior to a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin
Britain’s prime minister Theresa May is welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the chancellery in Berlin yesterday. Photo: Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kay Nietfeld/POOL

Steven Swinford in Berlin

Theresa May has warned that the West needs to “keep up the pressure on Russia” over “atrocities” in Syria after Donald Trump said he was prepared to form an alliance with Vladimir Putin.

The British prime minister joined European leaders and US president Barack Obama as she called for further sanctions on Russia if it breaches “international humanitarian law”.

Mrs May was speaking at a summit in Berlin after meeting the leaders of the US, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, with all six leaders condemning “atrocities” in Aleppo.

Appearing alongside the German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mrs May said: “On Syria, looking at Aleppo, we are united in our condemnation of the atrocities that are taking place there.

“We agree on the need to keep up the pressure on Russia, including the possibility of sanctions on those who breach international humanitarian law.”

Mrs May also insisted that Britain was “on track” to trigger Brexit in March next year after claims that her government does not have a plan and needs 30,000 extra civil servants.

She said: “I will be able to update Chancellor Merkel on where we are on our Brexit preparations. Our work is on track, we do stand ready to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, that’s next year.

“I want to see this as a smooth process, an orderly process, working towards a solution that is in the interests of both the UK but also in the interests of our European partners too.”

Mrs Merkel said: “In addition to the issue of exit negotiations with Great Britain, we want to focus mainly on the future of the European Union.”

She insisted that, during a meeting with Mrs May, the “British wish to leave the EU” would not be “discussed at any great length”.

Mrs Merkel added: “That will not be on the agenda because the prime minister has already assured us that at the very latest Britain will invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

“We accept that and we shall wait until that notice has been tabled.”

She said that her main focus for the summit was on the future of the European Union.

During their bilateral talks, which lasted more than an hour, Mrs May and Mrs Merkel agreed on the need to work with US president-elect Mr Trump.

A No 10 spokesman said: “Following on from the morning meeting, they agreed on the enduring importance of the transatlantic relationship and looked forward to their future co-operation with president-elect Donald Trump on the range of global challenges.”

They also agreed the need to “strengthen the links between the people of the UK and Germany, both while we remain in the EU and once the UK has left”.

Mrs May also led discussions during the summit on migration, calling for a “global approach” to address the issue. The leaders agreed to do more to tackle migration “at source” and to “galvanise” the international response.

Meanwhile, Nato’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday he had a “positive talk” with Mr Trump and they agreed on the “enduring importance” of the alliance and the need for Europe to increase defence spending.

Mr Trump caused alarm during the election campaign by calling the organisation “obsolete”.

He suggested that America under his leadership would think twice about helping an endangered ally if it had not paid its Nato dues.

The pair spoke by phone and Nato said in a statement: “The two leaders agreed that progress has been made on fairer burden-sharing but that there is more to do.”

During the campaign, Mr Trump stressed that Nato should do more to counter terrorist threats.

According to the Nato statement, the two men also discussed “how Nato is adapting to the new security environment, including to counter the threat of terrorism”.

Mr Trump also spoke with Donald Tusk, the European Council president. The conversation lasted only 10 minutes, during which time Mr Tusk raised issues including Ukraine. They invited each other to visit Brussels and Washington.


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