On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow and said during a follow up press conference that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between the two countries.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov described the negotiations as “substantial and very frank” concerning their bilateral relations and interaction in the international arena.
Foreign Minister Lavrov later said they both understand when Moscow and Washington cooperate it benefits not just their own 2 countries, but the rest of the world.
He noted the two nations “seek to fight without any compromise international terrorism” and acknowledged President Trump’s telephone call to Russian President Putin on April 4th, expressing condolences following the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg.
Lavrov explained that they talked about Syria including the recent chemical weapons incident on April 4th and the subsequent U.S. missile strike of the Shayrat Airfield on April 7th.
Lavrov said that Russia wants to apply to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Hague, Netherlands to initiate an investigation and indicated a letter was sent to Syria and the UN about the ban on chemical weapons to ensure that they give permission to the investigators to carry out an “impartial, unbiased investigation” in the Idlib Province where the April 4th chemical attack occurred and also at the Shayrat Airfield which later experienced a U.S missile attack.
Lavrov reported that concerning the UN Security Council, Russia will try to approve a memorandum in the Security Council which “will not speak so much about the investigation as to try and fix and identify the culprits.”
“We don’t want to impose any kind of line on, but we want an honest investigation of the affair” Lavrov added.
Although Lavrov emphasized that identifying the culprits isn’t a priority, any authentic investigation is conducted in such a way that a final determination is provided about who was ultimately responsible for a violent attack against innocent people.
Foreign Minister Lavrov appears to be seeking a lightweight investigation that isn’t genuinely honest and isn’t ordered around the discovery of culprits.
Lavrov wants an “honest investigation” of a chemical weapons attack that avoids assigning culprits which is mutually exclusive and comes across as heavy handed and self-serving.
On Wednesday Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that was drafted by Great Britain, France, and the U.S. that would have condemned the April 4th chemical weapons attack and required Syria to cooperate with an extensive investigation.
China abstained from voting.
Lavrov said that Russian President Putin is determined to put the de-confliction memorandum back on track that allows Russia and U.S. coalition forces to combat Jabhat al-Nusrah and other terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson admitted that they had a lengthy exchange of views regarding the situation in Syria and shared perspectives on possible ways forward.
Tillerson said it is the U.S. view that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end, and they have again brought this on themselves with their conduct of the war these past few years.
Tillerson admitted that the final outcome in their view does not provide for a role for the Assad in the future governance of Syria and added that he does not believe that the international community will accept that either.
“We do think it’s important that Assad’s departure is done in an orderly way – an orderly way – so that certain interests and constituencies that he represents feel they have been represented at the negotiating table for a political solution. How that occurs, we leave that to the process going forward” Tillerson said.
Tillerson explained they agreed to establish a working group that addresses smaller issues and then make progress toward stabilizing the relationship to address the more serious problems.
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