Putin meets Tillerson as US, Russia wrangle over Syria

Trump had frequently called during the 2016 US presidential election campaign for warmer ties with Putin, despite criticism from lawmakers in his own Republican Party.

Peskov refrained from revealing what the President discussed with the diplomats. Tillerson's Moscow talks hinge on new U.S. leverage over Syria. It was stark evidence that the president is moving ever further from his campaign promises to establish better ties with Moscow. Drafted by the U.S., United Kingdom and France, the resolution is a slightly revised version of previous similar document.

Tillerson reiterated the USA position that Assad must eventually relinquish power in Syria. But he clearly wasn't counting on it. "Let's be guided by pragmatic common sense", he said. "It may be just the opposite".

A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow is opposing the latest version of a Western draft UN Security Council resolution on a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

In another possible setback to a thaw with Moscow, Trump said on Wednesday that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is not obsolete, as he had declared during the election campaign past year. Until the chemical attack, the Trump administration had sought to step back from the US position that Assad should leave power. -Russian air safety agreement over Syria which Moscow suspended after the US missile strikes.

"We reject any accusations to this effect and would like to remind everyone that Russian Federation has been the only country to demand an unbiased global inquiry into the circumstances of the use of toxic chemicals near Idlib from the very start", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

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).

"Why should USA taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?" Russian Federation says rebels were responsible for whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

The meeting comes at a time of hightened tensions between the U.S. and Russian Federation following the attack on a Syrian airbase last week.

"The Kremlin argues Assad gave up his chemical weapons stores under a 2013 agreement Moscow brokered with the Obama administration; Tillerson has accused Russian Federation of "incompetence" in failing to enforce that deal", Charles Maynes reports for NPR from Moscow. But Tillerson repeated the administration's new belief that "the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end".

"The draft resolution has not been adopted owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of Council", U.S. Ambassador and current Security Council President Nikki Haley said.

"There is a low level of trust between our two countries", Tillerson said, before emphasizing that "the world's two foremost nuclear powers can not have this kind of relationship". And then the evidence comes out, and we see exactly what it is and we know exactly what the environment was. "No one showed us anything, no one said anything, although we repeatedly asked to produce the details on which these unfounded accusations lie".

The feuding also played out at the United Nations, where Russian Federation vetoed a Security Council resolution to bolster calls for global inquiries into the chemical attack.

But Mr Tillerson fired back that "There is a low level of trust between our two countries". No Russian aircraft were targeted by the USA cruise missile strike, and the Russian military was notified hours prior to the strike about the US intent. Ten countries voted in favor of the text, while Bolivia joined Russian Federation in voting no.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday, Trump sharply dialed up the rhetoric on Syria, calling Assad "an animal" whose regime was saved by Russian intervention.

Last week's poison gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held province of Idlib near the Turkish border was the most lethal since a sarin attack on August 21, 2013 killed hundreds in a rebel-controlled suburb of the capital Damascus. And he suggested that possible war crimes charges could be levied against the Syrian leader.

  • Zachary Reyes