Boris Johnson cancels trip to Moscow after US strikes on Syria

British foreign secretary says Russia’s continued defence of Assad regime in wake of chemical attack is deplorable

Boris Johnson said his priority was to building international support for a ceasefire in Syria. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Boris Johnson has cancelled a planned trip to Moscow after the US launched missile strikes on Syria and in the wake of “Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime”.

The British foreign secretary had been due to fly to Russia on Monday for talks with his direct counterpart, the first such meeting since 2012. But the Foreign Office confirmed on Saturday that Johnson would no longer make the trip because “developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally”.

Johnson said: “My priority is now to continue contact with the US and others in the run-up to the G7 meeting on 10-11 April – to build coordinated international support for a ceasefire on the ground and an intensified political process.

“We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. We call on Russia to do everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated.”

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will still go ahead with a visit to Moscow to deliver a “clear and coordinated” message to the Russians, Johnson said.

Russia has condemned US missile strikes on an airbase at Shayrat as an act of “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

On Saturday warplanes killed one person and wounded another as they again struck the northern Syrian town where a chemical attack killed 87 people on Tuesday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrike on the eastern side of Khan Sheikhun killed a woman, the first death in the town since the chemical attack.

The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, said the airstrike was carried out by a Russian warplane. It said the woman killed had fled to the town from her hometown of Latameh in central Syria.

At least 15 civilians, including four children, were also killed in a suspected US-led coalition airstrike on Saturday near Raqqa – Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold – the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A further 17 people were injured in the strike on Heneyda, according to the UK-based group.

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