Russia: Vladimir Putin meets Rex Tillerson as Syria rift deepens

Tillerson is considering the request, he said, "and we expect that Washington will have a constructive reaction".

A bilateral "working group" will attempt to chip away at "smaller issues" of conflict, Tillerson and Lavrov said.

But any expectations of an easy rapport have crashed into reality as the two countries trade escalating accusations over what happened last week in rebel-held territory in northern Syria.

Russian Federation is Syria's ally, and on Wednesday, the country vetoed a United Nations resolution that would have called on Syria to help in an worldwide investigation of the attack.

As Democratic lawmakers and pundits continue to question whether nefarious ties existed between the Trump campaign and Russia, Tillerson and other top administration officials in the last seven days have sketched a much different portrait.

Despite the talk of hopes for improvement in relations, Lavrov rehashed an extensive list of Russian grievances, from NATO's actions in Kosovo in 1999 to USA attempts to remove dictators from Sudan to Libya.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer this week called Russian Federation "isolated" in its continued support for the Assad government - and other American adversaries. While relations "may be at an all-time low", he said, he remained optimistic that the US and its allies "could get along with Russian Federation". "Right now, we're not getting along with Russian Federation at all", he conceded. We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russian Federation.

"This has built for a long period of time".

He also said Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria's north-western Idlib province, had no strategic value and was not now a battle front.

"We know they have the expertise".

But in 2014, three years after South Sudan gained independence, President Obama issued an executive order declaring that the situation in South Sudan posed an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States". The intelligence community's assessment of Russia's influence operation against the 2016 election also noted that a component of that campaign was generating and distributing fake news meant to discredit the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

On Wednesday, Russia's representative to the United Nations vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning the Khan Sheikhoun attack and recommending an immediate global investigation.

But Tillerson maintained the rhetoric of the White House about the end of the Al Assad era and the need to punish him for supposedly attempt with chemicals against his people. Trump said he would not telegraph USA planning aimed at ISIS, Assad, or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions and continued missile testing violate global conventions. "But we're going to see what happens".

Instead, Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who had met earlier on Wednesday, joined Putin for more than two hours. He said it was possible that investigators could uncover sufficient evidence to prosecute Assad as a war criminal.

Russian Federation has been badly mishandled by Western powers, which fail to realize the Kremlin is not fond of the Syrian leadership and is horrified at recent chemical attacks, former British diplomat Tony Brenton has told the BBC.

Trump sent several signals toward Russia while standing alongside the secretary general of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a military alliance established to guard against Russian aggression in eastern Europe.

  • Leroy Wright