Tense comments and warnings from Russia set the tone Wednesday for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he attempts to persuade Moscow to abandon its support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
In opening remarks ahead of his meeting with Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the United States not to attempt another attack against Syria after last week’s missile strike plunged U.S.-Russian relations to one of the lowest points since the Cold War.
“I will be frank, we have a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and contradictory ideas on the international agenda in Washington,” Lavrov said after shaking hands with Tillerson and sitting down at a conference table to welcome him to Moscow, a rite typically marked by polite pleasantries. “And I’d like to say, apart from words, we saw some very alarming actions regarding the unlawful attack in Syria.”
“It is of paramount importance to avert risks and recurrences of such actions in the future,” he added.
Tillerson, looking directly at his counterpart while speaking, acknowledged what he called “sharp differences” between the two countries. He said he hoped they could candidly discuss ways to narrow them going forward. He also said it was important the two governments maintain open lines of communication.
But Moscow appeared unready to budge on the primary goal of Tillerson’s mission — persuading Russia to help remove Assad from power.
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