United States and Russian Federation struggle to overcome rifts in Moscow

As her boss Rex Tillerson, the USA secretary of state, was meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia, Haley told the council, "It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad".

But while Lavrov also said that the two countries have a "common interest" in a political settlement in Syria, Tillerson asserted that the US does not see a future political role for Assad.

As Lavrov and Tillerson sat down for their private meeting, Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian TV and issued his own dire assessment of U.S.

"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 overt message Tillerson brought to Moscow - that Russia must choose between Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. - looks too much like an ultimatum to be even worthy of discussion, Russian experts say.

The talks got off to a frosty start, with the Russian politician branding the American cruise missile strike "illegal" and criticising "confusing and sometimes openly contradictory ideas" from the Trump administration on the US-Russia relationship and worldwide issues. Putin had even honored Tillerson with a friendship award.

Putin offered one olive branch during his meeting with Tillerson, saying he's ready to restore an accord with the U.S.to avoid conflicts between their militaries in the skies over Syria, according to Lavrov. Tillerson also said both nations would set up a "working group" to seek ways to ease tensions.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said it was Russia's eighth veto in support of President Bashar Assad's regime and asked: "How could anyone look at the faces of lifeless children" and yet veto this resolution? Mr Putin said that either gas belonging to the rebels was released when it was hit by a Syrian strike on a rebel arms dump, or the rebels faked the incident to discredit Assad. "I think it's very bad for mankind", Trump told Fox Business News.

Beyond Syria, Russia's alleged meddling in the USA presidential election also hovered over what was the first face-to-face encounter between Putin and any Trump administration Cabinet member.

"It reminds me of the events in 2003 when US envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq", Putin said. Russian Federation suspended the agreement after the Trump administration fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to the chemical attack.

Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, has urged Moscow to stop protecting the Assad regime, and said it stands alone as "the rest of the world, including the Arab world, overwhelmingly comes together to condemn this murderous regime".

Map showing Syrian chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun.

"Our policy is consistent and it's formulated exclusively on the basis of worldwide law and not under the impact of current opportunistic motives or false choice: 'You are with us or against us, "' Lavrov told Tillerson.

Earlier in the day, the USA and Russian Federation separately agreed to work together on an global investigation of the Syrian chemical weapons attack that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes. Turkey has said tests showed sarin gas was used.

Russian Federation said the US strike was illegal though and Lavrov repeated Moscow's stance on Wednesday, saying an global investigation should be left to determine who was to blame and what happened.

It's easy to see why this is happening: Trump's staff, with the possible exception of Tillerson, are all Russian Federation hawks.

Tillerson travelled to Moscow with a joint message from Western powers that Russian Federation should withdraw its support for Assad after a meeting of the Group of Seven industrialised economies also attended by Middle East allies. Rather, they argue, any US-Russia deal over Syria is going to have to take Moscow's interests squarely into account. -Russian relations to one of the lowest points since the Cold War.

  • Zachary Reyes