Boris Johnson “embarrasses” the United Kingdom with his failed attempt to persuade the G7 to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, John McDonnell has said.
Yesterday Western foreign ministers decided not to back the foreign secretary’s proposal to punish Russia in the wake of the chemical attack against civilians in Syria.
A decision on any further sanctions has been put off until the outcome of an investigation into the attack which killed 89 people.
The attack prompted Donald Trump to launch a military strike against Syrian President Assad, an ally of President Putin.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, McDonnell said Jonson should have focused on trying to get Russia “back to the negotiation table” and had shown “poor judgement”.
“The idea of going along to the G7 and trying to put together a coalition around sanctions was never going to succeed. It was really bad. It was a bad policy decision by Mr Johnson. It should never have happened,” he said.
The shadow chancellor added that Johnson’s tactics “embarrasses our whole country on the international scene” and “undermines our credibility in the future”.
The foreign secretary had gone into the summit in Italy saying ministers would discuss targeted sanctions against senior Russian and Syrian military figures implicated in last week’s chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Johnson denied the failure of agree sanctions meant he had suffered a defeat.
Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano told a press conference: “We must have a dialogue with Russia and we must not push Russia into a corner.
“There is no consensus on additional new sanctions as an efficient instrument to deliver the goal we are aiming for.”
Former Tory foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind also told BBC Two’s Newsnight last night he had misgivings about the US-UK push for sanctions.
“I always was a bit suspicious about its wisdom because there has to be some doubt about whether further sanctions would make any impact given that they were going to be targeted against individuals and unlikely to change the Kremlin’s view,” the Tory said.
Chancellor Philip Hammond defended Johnson. “The British Government position has been and will remain to lead the way on arguing for a robust approach towards Russian aggression in Syria,” he said today.
“Sometimes some of our partners are less forward-leaning than we are but that won’t stop us making the case for what we believe is the right approach for dealing with Russia.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for talks today.
The White House has made clear that it could mount further strikes against the regime if there was any fresh use of chemical weapons, despite a threat of retaliation from Russia and Iran.