Putin meets Tillerson as tensions rise over Syria
His top diplomat offered a similarly grim assessment from the other side of the globe after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
"We did discuss at length the future role for Assad, whether it be in a future political process or not", Tillerson said. But even more crucially, it would cast Russian Federation as a loser in the six-year Syrian conflict, dealing a blow to its aspirations to regain Soviet-era global clout and prestige.
Leaving traveling USA reporters across town, Tillerson met Putin in the Kremlin for nearly two hours following his discussions with Lavrov.
According to The Associated Press, Russia knew in advance of Syria's attacks, but there is still no proof of Moscow involvement. Jabbing at US credibility, the Russian leader reminded reporters about unfounded USA claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, used to justify America's 2003 invasion. Just the opposite, Moscow's decision to suspend a vital communications link with the USA military in Syria has signaled its readiness to raise the stakes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing whether Trump officials criminally colluded with Russian officials to boost Trump's chances of defeating former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic challenger.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that unnamed forces inside Syria are plotting to carry out chemical attacks and frame the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for them.
The US Secretary of Defense has said there is no doubt that the Syrian government was responsible for a poison gas attack last week on a rebel-held town, adding that it had used chemical weapons several times in the past. "Russian relationship from this point forward", he told Lavrov.
A United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and demanding access for investigators failed Wednesday because of a Russian veto. The day before, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said the airstrike had destroyed 20% of the Syrian government's operational aircraft.
Putin said the United States is using the same tactic it did in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Even more, 66% of respondents said they supported the Trump administration's strike last week specifically.
"This insistence on removing or ousting a totalitarian leader, we've already been through it, we know very well what happens when you do that", Lavrov said. Washington says it has no doubt about Assad's responsibility.
Putin told state-run Mir television that relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in the early months of Trump's presidency. Putin had even honored Tillerson with a friendship award.
Tillerson met with Putin and Lavrov on Wednesday. That, Trump said, is "very bad for Russia" and "very bad for mankind" and the world.
In the past two weeks alone, President Trump has pivoted from resolutely opposing US military intervention to ordering missile strikes, and from acceptance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power to a renewed focus on getting rid of him.
Tillerson called for Assad to eventually relinquish power.
He said the United States and Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group comprising about 20 countries with interests on both sides of the conflict, "must find a way to work together, to stabilize the situation.in support of the political process".
Tillerson says he wants to understand why U.S. -Russia differences exist. It's very bad for this world, " Trump said. Conflicts over Russia's actions in Ukraine and Russia's alleged interference in the US presidential campaign were also likely topics.
The Russian Minister, added that recent USA statements have been issued "alongside some alarming actions, notably the illegal attack against Syria". And Putin doesn't seem to see the connection between the White House and Moscow. He has made some comments to Fox News on Syria, saying he did not plan for the United States to be drawn fully into the Syrian war.
The exchange came as part of a deal to evacuate over 10,000 residents from two opposition-held areas near Damascus and the two villages in northern Syria, an agreement that critics say amounts to forced displacement. Aides later clarified that this "did not signal a change in administration policy".
He reiterated the USA position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must eventually relinquish power in Syria, a position starkly at odds with Russian Federation.
Putin says "outside entities" planning more strikes on Syria
Tillerson, a former Exxon oil executive, will face his biggest challenge so far as Washington's top diplomat when he is in Moscow. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations.
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