Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

Russia says to veto Western-backed draft UN resolution on Syria - Ifax

Lavrov, who met with Tillerson earlier in the day, gave him a chilly reception as they headed into their first meeting, telling him that Russian Federation had lots of questions about what he said were "very ambiguous" and "contradictory" statements coming from the United States.

Moscow and Washington are trying to figure each other out during the first visit by a senior member of Donald Trump's administration to Russian Federation.

The meeting Wednesday, announced by Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, comes hours after Tillerson faced his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a tense encounter.

Lavrov, in turn, accused the United States of conducting "an illegitimate attack" against Syria when it fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in retaliation for last week's deadly chemical attack on civilians, which USA officials blame on President Bashar Assad.

"We frankly discussed the current state of the U.S. -Russia relations".

The meeting was steeped in geopolitical intrigue, with neither country saying ahead of time if it would take place or not.

However, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says President Assad is Russia's key military ally in the Middle East and Mr Tillerson may need to rethink his belief that he can weaken Moscow's support for him.

Lavrov says Russian Federation has lots of questions about the "very ambiguous" and "contradictory" ideas coming from the U.S. He says through a translator that it's important for Russian Federation to understand the "real intentions" of the Trump administration. "We believe it fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future". As the Guardian put it, "the question is not so much whether Tillerson can reach an agreement on Syria but whether he can start any sort of dialogue at all".

Mr Tillerson, who was previously awarded the Russian Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin, said he was "hopeful" of positive discussions. "No", Trump said. But, he added, "I see them using gas.we have to do something".

"We're not going into Syria", Trump said in an interview with Fox Business. He said working groups would be established to improve U.S. "So when I saw that, I said we have to do something".

The palpable tension hanging over Tillerson's trip spoke to a widening chasm between the two world powers.

Only weeks ago, it appeared that Mr Trump, who praised Mr Putin throughout the United States election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation.

Turning back to Assad, Trump said: "When you drop gas, or bombs, or barrel bombs ... drop them right in the middle of a group of people". He tells Fox Business Network that Putin's support for Assad is "very bad for Russian Federation".

"This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when United States representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq".

The Obama administration too had maintained that there could be no resolution to the Syrian crisis with Assad in power, but refused to militarily intervene to achieve that objective.

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