MOSCOW - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia for almost two hours Wednesday, but the two men appeared unable to agree on the facts involving the deadly chemical weapons assault on Syrian civilians or Russian interference in the US election - much less move toward an improvement in basic relations. Russian Federation is a strong country.
Details of the meeting were not released.
As Lavrov and Tillerson sat down for their private meeting, Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian TV and issued his own dire assessment of U.S.
But Lavrov said some progress had been made on Syria at the meeting and that a working group would be set up to examine the poor state of U.S. -Russia ties. The world's two foremost nuclear powers can not have this kind of relationship.
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Before the April 4 chemical weapons attack, both Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that removing Assad from power was not a priority for the U.S. -Russian dispute concerns culpability for the chemical weapons, broader disagreements over everything from Ukraine to Russia's support for once-fringe candidates in European elections are among other sore points.
Russian Federation has vetoed a Western-backed draft UN Security Council resolution on last week's suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council before the vote that during talks in Moscow Russia asked for an independent global investigation to examine the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun. Tillerson also told Lavrov that better relations with the US require Russian Federation stop its support for Assad. He called for an "honest investigation" of the attack and said Russian Federation was "not convinced" by evidence that showed the Assad regime was culpable. "No", Trump said in the interview, which aired Wednesday in the U.S. He added that he believed the chemical attack in Syria "was planned", and that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had used chlorine bombs and cluster bombs on "more than 50 occasions".
"Our impression is that the West, principally the USA, is colluding with terrorists, and that it made up this whole story to serve as the pretext for an attack", Assad said in the interview released Thursday. "That's exactly what is happening now... We're going to see how that all works out". The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested earlier this week that the attack was a "false flag" created to frame Assad. Trump, in the past, has called Assad "evil" and "an animal".
But in a Fox Business Network interview, the USA president said he wouldn't intervene militarily against Assad unless the Syrian leader resorts to using weapons of mass destruction again.