Hundreds of protesters have staged a rally against a meeting of Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers underway in the city of Lucca, condemning the group’s stance on the crisis-hit Syria.
The demonstrators marched throughout Lucca on Monday, chanting slogans and carrying banners against the presence of G7 foreign ministers in the city.
They also decried a recent US missile attack against a Syrian army base in Homs Province, saying G7 governments are not after helping the violence-stricken people of Syria; rather, they are pursuing their own interests in the resource-rich Middle East region.
The Syrian issue tops the agenda of the two-day summit in Italy.
On April 7, the US launched the strike on the Syrian airfield in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province. Damascus has rejected any role in the purported gas attack.
“The G7 are the terrorists, and those who launched 59 missiles on Syria a few days ago are terrorists. Syrians have been suffering because of the war they caused and their policies,” one of the demonstrators said.
Another protester said, “The foreign ministers have long been active, because the region has resources, and oil and natural gas pipelines underground, and also because there are vested economic interests. They want to increase their own capital rather than help people around the world.”
Clashes also erupted between the protesters and police in the city’s northern part.
The meeting brings together foreign ministers from the G7 members — Germany, France, the UK, Canada, Italy, Japan and the US -- as well as the European Union.
In a special meeting early on Tuesday, the ministers met with their counterparts from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar to discuss Syria. Many of those countries are widely viewed as supporters of anti-Damascus militant groups.
The meeting was expected to focus on pressing Russia to stop its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian base which came under attack by the US hosted Russian troops, who are deployed to the Arab state at the request of Damascus as part of a mission to fight terrorists.
Since September 2015, the Russian air force has been providing air cover to the Syrian army in its counterterrorism operations on the ground, enabling many gains against Takfiri militants across the country.
On Monday, Britain and Canada said sanctions imposed on Russia could be tightened if it continued to support Assad.
“I think we have to show a united position and that in these negotiations we should do all we can to get Russia out of Assad’s corner, at least to the point that they are ready to participate in finding a political solution,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Monday.
“It is the right moment to talk about this, how the international community, with Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Europe, with the US, can drive forward a peace process for Syria and avoid further military escalation of the conflict.”
The meeting comes ahead of a visit this week by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials this week. Tillerson will be the first official from the administration of President Donald Trump to visit Moscow.
However, the Kremlin said on Monday that Tillerson will not meet President Vladimir Putin, highlighting tensions between Washington and Moscow.