Putin says trust erodes under Trump, Moscow icily receives Tillerson

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Kremlin.

The United States, Britain and France have pointed a finger at the Syrian government saying their experts have found that nerve agents were used in the April 4 attack.

Despite hopes of an improvement in ties under Trump, the fallout over the alleged chemical attack and United States bombing meant the Syrian conflict - in which more than 320,000 people have died - has dominated Tillerson s visit.

Moscow and Washington have traded barbs over last week's chemical attack, which killed 89 people, and prompted the USA to carry out its first strike against the Syrian regime in the six-year conflict, taking out aircraft and infrastructure at a Syrian military air base.

"You can say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military side, has not improved but most likely worsened", Putin said in the transcript of an interview with Mir television released by the Kremlin. He added that "returning to pseudo-attempts to resolve the crisis by repeating mantras that Assad must step down can not help sort things out", suggesting a meeting between Tillerson and Putin would be unproductive given the current political climate. "We don't want a new Cold War". Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the US election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation.

Lavrov greeted Tillerson with unusually icy remarks, denouncing the missile strike on Syria as illegal and accusing Washington of behaving unpredictably.

"We believe it is fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again".

Putin has made comparisons between the USA response and its 2003 intervention in Iraq, calling it a "tedious" story.

Russian Federation vetoed a United Nations resolution Wednesday that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in a town in northern Syria and demanded a speedy investigation, triggering clashes between Moscow and the measure's Western backers.

"I really do hope Russian Federation will take this opportunity to be on the right side of history".

"We discussed our view that Russian Federation as their closest ally in the conflict perhaps has the best means of helping Assad recognise this reality", he said.

It was an icy start to the long-awaited meeting, which began with the two men entering a conference room making very little eye contact.

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.

The U.S. and its allies have held the Syrian government responsible for the chemical attack in northern Syria that killed more than 80.

The resolution would have compelled the Syrian government to provide helicopter pilots for interviews with global inspectors and flight logs that could provide evidence of flights in the air over the city where the gas attack took place. Last week, Trump ordered a cruise missile strike after an alleged chemical attack conducted by the Syrian regime.

What is the US' Syria policy?

The US claims the strike destroyed 20% of Syria's operational aircraft, a figure disputed by Russia's Defense Ministry.

Trump said U.S. relations with Russian Federation were not going well. He said the Kremlin wanted to know the Trump administration's "real intentions", and sought clarity on "very ambiguous" and "contradictory" messages coming from Washington. A former oil executive with good relationships in Russian Federation, he appeared to suggest Moscow had a strategic opportunity here: to fix strained relationships with other world powers.

However, Ja'afari, the Syrian envoy, dismissed as "lies" and "accusations" the notion that his country used "a chemical weapon we do not even possess".

  • Julie Sanders