Russian Federation challenges U.S. to prove chemical attack in Syria
Apr 17 2017 by Larry Hoffman
After Tillerson spent three hours talking with Lavrov and nearly two hours at the Kremlin with Putin, conveying Washington's demands that Moscow abandon Syria, the Russian Foreign Minister aired a long list of grievances with the U.S., some dating back many years.
Meanwhile, Tillerson said that he and Lavrov discussed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at length and that he made clear that the Trump administration has come around to the view that the Syrian President can not stay in power.
Both Lavrov and Tillerson made mention of plans to establish a working group with representatives from the State Department and Russia's foreign ministry with the goal of improving relations between the two nations.
In a round of tense talks, one of the most pressing issues on the table was the chemical gas attack in Syria and the ensuing strike by the United States on a Syrian air base.
However, the Russian President and his officials dismissed USA evidence that Assad had carried out the attack, and Putin added a "bombshell prediction" of his own: Unnamed forces were going to carry out more chemical weapons attacks and blame these on Assad.
The United States and its allies accused Damascus of gassing civilians on April 4, but Russian Federation said the intoxication was possibly caused by the explosion of chemical weapons produced and stored by the rebels in a local depot during a raid by the Syrian Air Force.
Russia "saw some very troubling actions regarding the attack on Syria", he said, according to an official Russian interpreter.
The news conference came after Mr Putin met Mr Tillerson for the first time since Mr Trump took office.
Tillerson's trip to Russia, his first as secretary of state, followed just days after a USA missile strike against the regime of Assad, a Russian ally.
Disagreement over Assad's role in the chemical attack remained an area of tension during the press conference.
United States relations with Russian Federation "may be at an all-time low" said Donald Trump as he moved ever further away from his campaign promises to establish better ties with Moscow.
The proposed resolution would have condemned the alleged attack and expressed the council's full backing to investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
"We do think it's important that Assad's departure is done in an orderly way", Tillerson said.
He said: "Clearly our view is that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end and they have again brought this on themselves with their conduct in the war over these past few years". Mr Putin had even honoured Mr Tillerson with a friendship award.
Only weeks ago, it appeared that Mr Trump, who praised Mr Putin throughout the USA election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation.
"It reminds me of the events in 2003 when US envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq", Putin said.