Putin meets Tillerson as tensions rise over Syria
- Alejandro Massey
"We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria", Mr Lavrov said, referring to the Tomahawk missiles Mr Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after complaining of worsening ties with Donald Trump's administration as the two sides spar over Syria.
The White House has accused Moscow of trying to cover up Assad's use of chemical weapons after the attack on a town killed 87 people last week.
Not long before Trump spoke in Washington, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struck a similar tone after an nearly two-hour meeting with Putin, saying the two countries had reached a "low point" in relations. He said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering the request. -Russian air safety agreement over Syria which Moscow suspended after the US missile strikes.
Leaving traveling USA reporters across town, Tillerson met Putin in the Kremlin for nearly two hours following his discussions with Lavrov.
Lavrov said Russian Federation does not want its citizens engaged in hacking and suggested in 2015 working with the U.S.to tackle bad actors in cyberspace.
During his visit - the first to Moscow by a senior Trump administration official - Tillerson was expected to challenge Russian Federation to distance itself from Assad and his Iranian backers, an idea that the Kremlin dismissed as "absurd".
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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov blasted U.S. claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference.
"More than once, we have reaffirmed our readiness for a constructive and equal dialogue and cooperation based on respect for the legitimate interests of the other", Lavrov said, adding, "This has been our consistent policy that is fully in keeping with global law and does not depend on current trends or a false choice, such as 'you are either with us or against us'". But it appears they didn't discuss additional sanctions - until they were in front of the press.
Russian president says ties with USA worsened in recent months as top diplomats lock horns over Syria conflict. He also said that Putin had agreed to reactivate a U.S.
Speaking of the missile strikes he authorized against the base the carried out the chemical attack, Trump later added: "I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing".
FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airbase, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017.
Russia's alleged meddling in the US presidential election also hovered over the first face-to-face encounter between Putin and a Trump administration Cabinet member.
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.
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Shortly after, under pressure from the West, Syria agreed to a Russian proposal to give up control of its chemical weapons. Assad denied having chemical weapons and said Syria would only allow an "impartial" investigation into the incident.
"In general, primitiveness and loutishness are very characteristic of the current rhetoric coming out of Washington", Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia's state-owned RIA news agency. But in a Fox Business Network interview, the USA president said he wouldn't intervene militarily against Assad unless the Syrian leader resorts to using weapons of mass destruction again.
US officials have insisted the Russians would not sever the "deconfliction" hotline. "No", Trump said. But, he added, "I see them using gas. we have to do something".
For his part, Tillerson offered a more diplomatic hand and shared the sentiment that the meetings were an important step for each side to spell out their positions and understand the scope of their differences. As the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple congressional committees investigate possible collusion between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign, the president and his aides can now point to his hard-line stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad as evidence he's willing to stand up to Putin.
He said working groups would be established to improve U.S. "But we're going to see what happens", Trump told the news conference.
Not long before Trump spoke, Russian Federation vetoed a Western-backed United Nations resolution that would have condemned the chemical weapons attack and demanded a speedy investigation. "I think he had a very successful meeting", Trump said. He said the recent chemical weapons attack was really the act of terrorists and rebels.
Trump says Syrian President Bashar Assad is "an animal".
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