Russia warns US over Syria

(CNN)Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov began a meeting with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Moscow with a warning — do not strike the Syrian regime again.

The two top diplomats are sitting down together in Moscow on Wednesday for what are expected to be painstaking talks, after a chemical attack in northwestern Syria plunged the old Cold War enemies to a new low.
The two countries have traded barbs over last week’s chemical attack, which killed 89 people, and prompted the US to carry out its first strike against the Syrian regime in the six-year conflict, taking out aircraft and infrastructure at a Syrian military air base.
The White House on Tuesday accused Russia and Syria of carrying out a confusion campaign over who was responsible for the chemical attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made comparisons between the US response and its 2003 intervention in Iraq, calling it a “tedious” story.
The deaths have been widely blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, has denied the regime carried out the attack.
Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia “saw some very troubling actions regarding the attack on Syria.”
“We believe it is fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again,” Lavrov said, according to an official Russian interpreter.
He also complained about the mixed messages coming out of Washington on the Trump administration’s policy on Syria, with the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, making clear Assad should have no future in Syria as Tillerson took a softer line.
“I will be frank that we had a lot of questions regarding a lot of very ambiguous as well as contradictory ideas on a whole plethora of bilateral and international agenda coming from Washington,” Lavrov said.
He hit back at remarks Tillerson made a day earlier that Russia would have to decide whether it was with the US and the West in standing up against Assad, or against them, describing the comments as “wrong choices.”
Tillerson took a more diplomatic tone in his opening remarks, saying that he hoped to clarify “areas of common objectives, areas of common interests, even when our tactical approaches may be different.”
“And to further clarify areas of sharp difference, so we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be.”
The fallout over the chemical attack follows comments by the Trump administration and Russia that a reset in relations between the countries was possible after decades of hostility.
But Putin said in an interview with state-run MIR television station that relations had only deteriorated.
“The working level of confidence in Russian-American relations, especially at the military level, under the administration of Donald Trump, has not improved, but rather worsened”.

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