Trump says North Atlantic Treaty Organisation not obsolete, as tensions rise between Russian Federation and US

Tensions between Washington and Moscow had increased sharply in the days leading up to the meeting, after a tumultuous week that saw the US conduct a surprise missile strike against the forces of Russian ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in retaliation for what Washington believes was Assad's use of banned chemical weapons against civilians.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council before the vote that a resolution was unnecessary, and the draft put forward by the Western powers pre-judged that the Syrian government was responsible for the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun in which almost 90 people died.

The first visit to Moscow by a senior Trump administration official took place amid heightened tensions after the USA accused the Assad government of a chemical-weapons attack in Idlib province and said Russian Federation was covering up the atrocity.

"We're going to see how that all works out", Trump said.

The Kremlin leader again slammed the U.S. missile strike and angrily rejected the allegation that Assad s forces were behind the suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun that left 87 civilians dead including children.

Assad has said he will only allow an investigation once his government is sure the countries participating are unbiased.

On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the Idlib attack and push the Syrian government to cooperate with investigators.

Russian Federation and Syria claim the Khan Shaykhun victims were killed by toxic agents released from a rebel chemical arsenal hit by Syrian warplanes.

The strikes came after a chemical attack killed 89 people in the opposition-held Idlib Governorate.

"These have tested positive for the nerve agent Sarin, or a Sarin-like substance", the delegation said during a special session at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

Denouncing a "very barbaric" attack, Trump ordered a strike that saw 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles slam into the airbase in central Syria from where Washington accused Assad's forces of launching the attack.

Russian Federation accused the United States of breaking worldwide law with the strike against the Syrian regime, a key ally that Moscow has supported with air strikes since 2015.

As Tillerson sat down for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, a senior Russian official assailed the "primitiveness and loutishness" of US rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximise the awkwardness during the first visit to Moscow by a member of Trump's cabinet. Tillerson said Syria's government had committed more than 50 attacks using chlorine or other chemical weapons over the duration of the conflict.

In his first interview since the incident, the president said: "Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists".

He insisted his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russian Federation to avoid threatened United States military action.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Moscow on April 12 appeared to do little to smooth relations between the two superpowers, with a clear rift remaining over a suspected chemical-weapon attack in Syria and confusion over the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

Lavrov, who is scheduled to meet his Iranian and Syrian counterparts this Saturday in Moscow, reiterated the Russian line, saying that the future of Syria must be decided by Syrians themselves, No Syria deals can be made without Iran, a long-time Russia ally and staunch supporter of the Assad regime. Trump praised NATO Wednesday and said he looked forward to discussing counterterrorism and shared obligations with member countries next month.

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.

Asked whether Assad could be subject to war crimes charges, Tillerson said people were working to make such a case, though he cautioned doing so would require clearing a high legal hurdle. "I would like to think that they didn't know, but certainly they could have", Trump said.

At the start of his meeting with Lavrov, Tillerson said he wanted to "clarify areas of common objectives, areas of common interest - even where our tactical approaches may be different - and further clarify areas of sharp difference".

  • Leroy Wright