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Tough talks and tension for Tillerson in Moscow

13 April 2017

Yet there were no guarantees Tillerson's arguments would prove any more successful than the Obama administration's failed effort to peel Russian Federation away from its Syrian ally. But in last week's crucial tests, Donald Trump made good decisions about Syria, Russia and China - moving his erratic administration a big closer toward the pillars of traditional US policy.

"The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end", he confidently predicted.

It seems that Mattis must be trusted on his word that Assad acted to kill his own people, because he seems unable to furnish any evidence for his bold claims.

As the council debated its response on Thursday, the United States fired cruise missiles at a Syrian air base that the U.S. says was used to launch the chemical attack.

It called on Russian Federation to promote a "real and genuine" political process in Syria and to use its influence to end the country's bloody six-year civil war.

Once the order was received, the general said, Centcom targeted 59 locations on the airfield and struck 57 of them. We just marked the centennial of a war in which chemical weapons proved so deadly that the world outlawed their use, and this is no time to go back on what we learned then at such a horrific cost.

His remarks came as both Moscow and Washington escalated their rhetoric on the eve of the meeting. The animosity is especially striking given widespread speculation that Trump, who lavishly praised Putin during his campaign, would pursue rapprochement with Moscow.

Speaking to reporters before he left Italy for Moscow, Tillerson said: "Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians, and Hezbollah".

Even on Syria, the positions appeared to be hardening.

"We do think it is a question worth asking the Russians".

At least 86 people died in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria last week in what was claimed to be a chemical attack conducted by the Syrian government.

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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump had hoped to reach an agreement with Russian Federation in national interest.

As Tillerson landed in Moscow, senior White House officials briefed reporters on declassified US intelligence they said disproved Russia's claim that rebels were responsible for the chemical weapons.

"Russia's allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents", the official said.

"If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price", Mattis told reporters during his first Pentagon briefing as secretary.

The US administration's policy towards the conflict in Syria still remains an enigma to Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the media ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's talks with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Russian leader was responding to a question on the likelihood of further U.S. military strikes against Syria, following Friday's firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles against the Shayrat airfield.

Before meeting Putin, Tillerson received a chilly reception from Lavrov, who told Tillerson that Russian Federation was trying to understand the "real intentions" of the Trump administration.

Britain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Australia and various Gulf states were swift to hail the USA missile attacks on Syria while Russia, Iran and China opposed the strikes.

Casualties from the airstrike were minimal, but those 59 Tomahawks are going to have to be replenished, which is already a bonus for the USA war economy.

Of immediate interest is a shared regional desire to know what, if any, plans President Trump may have to prioritise help for our governments and regional private sector to at least diminish some of the more threatening economic, social and security challenges now being confronted by citizens amid the spate of gun-related murders and violence that is causing deep concern.

"The objective of this attack was singularly against chemical weapons use", Mattis told reporters, saying preventing the use of chemical weapons represented "a vital national interest" of the United States in order to ensure that such weapons of war do not become "commonplace".

Tough talks and tension for Tillerson in Moscow