Rex Tillerson meets Sergei Lavrov after war of words over Syria
00:00, Nov 30, -0001
Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material can't be published, transferred, copied or redistributed.
Striving to salvage ties amid a fierce dispute over Syria, the United States and Russian Federation on Wednesday agreed to work together toward an global investigation of a Syrian chemical weapons attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.
Trump ordered a cruise-missile strike Thursday on a Syrian airbase where the US determined the sarin gas attack had been launched and where the Russians had also stationed forces.
Before meeting Putin, Tillerson received a chilly reception from Lavrov, who told Tillerson that Russian Federation was trying to understand the "real intentions" of the Trump administration.
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Monday there is "no doubt" the Syrian regime was behind last week s deadly chemical strike, while United States officials accused Moscow of waging a misinformation campaign around the attack.
Lavrov told Tillerson Moscow was hoping to understand Washington's "real intentions" and warned that the Kremlin considered it "fundamentally important" to prevent more "unlawful" USA strikes against its ally Syria. Only a week ago, top Trump officials had spoken off deprioritizing past USA efforts to remove Assad from office and accepting the "reality" that 18 months of Russian military intervention had secured him in power. He said Assad's government was responsible.
"We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria", Lavrov said, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.
Putin accused Assad's opponents of planning to stage chemical attacks to be blamed on the Assad regime in order to lure the United States, which bombarded a Syrian air base last week, deeper into the conflict.
President Trump said that the images of the attack's aftermath moved him to act, launching the Tomahawk strike on the airbase from where the U.S. believes the planes took off to carry out the attack.
Putin quickly invited the Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow on Friday, the day after Tillerson departs.
Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who lavishly praised Putin throughout the campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation. "We believe it is of principal importance to prevent risks of a repeat of such steps in the future". "Russia is on an island when it comes to its support of Syria or its lack of, frankly, acknowledgment of what happened", he told reporters.But at the same briefing Spicer drew criticism after he sought to underscore the ghastliness of the gas attack by saying, "You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons". Tillerson's mission sees the Trump administration taking on the traditional US role as spokesman for a unified Western position.
Moreover, is Trump aware that the U.S. government, through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, has had a mission in place since 2013 (and not set to expire until 2020) worth many millions of dollars for private contractors to "implement a regional program to manage a quick-response mechanism supporting activities that pursue a transition to a democratic and stable Syria"? The Russians held to a tentative schedule that was worked out in advance, USA officials said.
During his visit - the first to Moscow by a senior Trump administration official - Tillerson was expected to challenge Russian Federation to distance itself from Assad and his Iranian backers, an idea that the Kremlin dismissed as "absurd". If we really had colluded with Russian Federation, would we be antagonizing them in Syria?
The Interfax news agency quotes Putin as saying that the relationship between Russian Federation and the US has deteriorated rather than improved under President Trump's administration.
Mr Tillerson summed it up, saying: "It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end". Moscow was aware that the best time to intervene in Syria would be during Obama's presidency to impose the status.
Like Assad, Iran and Russian Federation chose to use their power in the crisis after it became certain that Tehran had failed in protecting Assad who was about to be ousted back then.
Trump said, "when I saw that, I said we have to do something".