US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Moscow for crucial talks – but without a game plan from key allies about how to deal with Russia’s backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Trump, he said, has been very clear with his stance on Russian Federation. He said Moscow has lots of questions about the “very ambiguous” and “contradictory” ideas emanating from Washington.
“The facts we have are conclusive” that the attack was planned and carried by Syrian government forces, Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. was “quite confident of that” and describing it as “just the latest in a series of uses of chemical weapons by the Assad regime”. “We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future”.
Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the USA election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation.
While Tillerson and his State Department have largely shunned the press, Haley has sat down with the major television programs, and delivered speeches to the United Nations that cable news channels carried live.
“There seems to be a difference between what Ambassador Haley is saying, as she said last night, that Assad really has no future, and what I heard this morning from Secretary Tillerson”, Rubio said on “This Week”.
Immediately after the Tomahawk strikes, Russian officials said that use of the so-called “deconfliction channel” between the US and Russia to ensure the safety of air operations over Syria had been canceled, but they later said that use of the channel had been suspended. Turkey has said tests showed sarin gas was used.
“We’re not going into Syria”, he said in excerpts of the interview on the station’s website. “I just don’t think that’s a scenario that’s possible”.
Despite that history, Lavrov gave Tillerson an icy welcome Wednesday, diving straight into Moscow’s grievances with Washington in what would usually be warm opening remarks.
Nearly 7 out of 10 people said Trump needed approval from Congress before pursuing further military action in the war-torn country, and 54% indicated they were uneasy with Trump’s ability to tackle the Syria situation. I mean, not so much because of the degree of destruction at the airbase but the Russians, I think, have been assured by statements that this was not meant to signal the start of an open-ended campaign against the Assad regime.
Of Assad, Trump added: “This is an animal”.
According to USA officials, chemical weapons were stored at the Shayrat air base, which is where the gas attack is believed to have launched from. The Pentagon said on the night of the attacks that the runways deliberately were not targeted since they were easy to fix.
Tillerson and Putin are no strangers – Putin in 2013 awarded the Order of Friendship to Tillerson when he was CEO of ExxonMobil, the highest honor Russian Federation gives to foreigners.
The United States has moved swiftly and dramatically to punish the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons against civilians in a recent attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria.
Intelligence services from several Western countries dispute that claim.
In an interview with the Fox Business Network, Trump said he was not planning to order US forces into Syria, but that he had to respond to the images of dead children poisoned in the gas attack.
Foreign ministers of the G7 group of nations, which include the US, Japan, Britain and Germany, were gathering in Lucca, Italy, on Monday, where Syria was likley to dominate the agenda.
On Monday Tillerson raised fresh expectations for aggressive US action – and not only in Syria – as he visited the site of a World War II Nazi massacre in central Italy, saying the USA would hold to account “all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world”.
“I hope Russian Federation is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russian Federation closer into some level of responsibility”, Tillerson said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday. “If Russia wants to spend millions of dollars a day dropping bombs on ISIS, I’m OK with that”.
Tillerson flew straight from the G7 meeting in Italy to Moscow, where he will become the first member of Trump’s cabinet to meet the Russian administration. Remember that Trump ran as someone who was hesitant to involve the U.S. in the business of other countries. The problem ahead for the Trump administration is now to figure out what the politics of the Syrian problem should be.
The visit also comes amid an FBI investigation into whether Russian Federation potentially colluded with Trump’s campaign to influence the USA election.