Trump officials say no new US focus on ousting Syria's Assad

Assad has undermined his own legitimacy with chemical attacks on his people, Tillerson said, but it's not the US' role- but the Syrian people's - to determine Assad's fate.

While Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a US priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that last week's American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn't really changed USA priorities toward ousting Assad.

It said Mr Lavrov and his U.S. counterpart agreed to continue discussions on Syria in person.

The editor-in-chief of Syria's pro-regime Al-Watan told AFP it was "likely the Turks who carried out the chemical attack because the rapprochement between Syria and United States is unacceptable for them".

Damascus and Moscow denied Syrian forces were behind the gas attack but Western countries dismissed their explanation that chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike.

Trump sent a letter Sunday to Congress that explained why he acted, the details of the attack, asserted his constitutional authority to act and affirmed his efforts to "keep Congress informed".

"Once Daesh threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilising the situation in Syria", he said.

He also told Tillerson that assertions that the Syrian military used chemical weapon in Idlib province on April 4 do not correspond to reality, the ministry added. But in interviews broadcast Sunday, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russian Federation wasn't targeted.

"I don't draw conclusions of complicity at all, but clearly they've been incompetent and perhaps they've just simply been out-maneuvered by the Syrians", Tillerson said of Russian Federation. "From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well", said the statement published by the group on media outlet Ilam al Harbi (War Media).

The United States fired about 60 Tomahawk missiles Thursday night into the government-controlled Shayrat air base in Syria under President Donald Trump's orders.

A USA defence official also clarified that the strikes conducted by the nation were not meant to damage runways or fully disable the Syria base.

Defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus, Tillerson said.

"I think the president has been quite clear".

The U.S. says the strike was in response to a nerve gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun last week, which has been widely blamed on government forces.

Sir Michael said the attack had happened "on their watch" and that Vladimir Putin must now live up to previously made promises that Mr Assad's chemical weapons have been destroyed.

  • Leroy Wright