Russian relations 'may be at an all-time low'

Despite initial hopes in Moscow of better ties with the United States under Trump, the two powers have descended into a furious war of words over the incident and a retaliatory USA missile strike against the forces of the Kremlin's ally Bashar Assad last week.

Trump's top aides said earlier this month that the President was moved by the photos and video of children suffering from the effects of the chemical attack and that those pictures, in a way, compelled him to take action against the Syrian president. Putin had even honored Tillerson with a friendship award.

Steeped in geopolitical intrigue, the meeting between Putin and Tillerson wasn't formally confirmed until the last minute, following days of speculation about whether the Russian would refuse to grant the former oil executive an audience.

"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.

"But we're going to see what happens", he said. Instead, Moscow maintains the Syrian army hit a rebel depot containing chemical weapons.

"Russia is open to this, open to dialogue with the USA in all different areas, not only to dialogue but to joint action aimed at results in the areas where this corresponds to the interests of both countries", Lavrov said.

Tillerson's trip to Moscow represented the highest-level contact between the US and Russian Federation since Trump took office in January.

"We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria", Lavrov said, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.

Despite hopes of an improvement in ties under Trump, the Tillerson-Lavrov talks look set to be dominated by the war of words over Syria - where more than 320,000 people have died in six years of brutal war.

The U.S. said relations with Russian Federation are at a 'low point, ' but both countries said they are willing to improve ties.

Some of Washington's allies had been wary of Trump, who spoke during his election campaign of seeking closer ties with Moscow and questioned the value of US support for its traditional friends.

He pointed to Bashar al-Assad directly: "We've met over the horror, hoping Assad has reached his depths, and yet every time, he's plunged to new lows".

"It can be said that the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded", Putin said in an interview on Russian state television channel, Mir.

Under a 2013 deal between the USA and Russian Federation, struck after a chemical attack in suburbs of Damascus killed hundreds of people, Syria was supposed to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal.

He also rejected American claims of incontrovertible evidence that Assad ordered the chemical attack. There was no reiteration of the charge that the US cruise-missile strike was unlawful.

The civil war is separate from the US-led effort against the Islamic State group in the north of the country.

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.

Reversing some of his campaign rhetoric, Trump told a joint news conference that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "is no longer obsolete" and hailed its role in the fight "against terrorism".

The United Nations peace envoy for Syria yesterday urged the United States and Russian Federation to agree on a way forward to end the war in Syria and pave the way for a "real negotiation".

Trump said during an interview on Fox Business Network this week that "Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person" in his relationship with Assad.

  • Joanne Flowers


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