Putin Meets With Tillerson In Moscow

Posted April 17, 2017

NPR's Lucian Kim reports that Lavrov went into talks "warning that the US not repeat strikes against Syrian government forces".

Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, has our report.

-Russian relations - which echoed a similar assessment made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hours earlier in Moscow - came Wednesday after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. We're a very, very strong country.

"We frankly discussed the current state of the U.S. -Russia relations". "There is a low level of trust between our two countries". "The world's two foremost nuclear powers can not have this kind of relationship".

Trump, who last week ordered airstrikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack, was asked Wednesday if Syria could have launched the attack without Russia's knowledge. He said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering the request.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed those comments, saying ties with Russian Federation were at a low point and must improve. There were no signs that would support the statement, the allegation that chemical agents were used there at all. As the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple congressional committees investigate possible collusion between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign, the president and his aides can now point to his hard-line stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad as evidence he's willing to stand up to Putin.

"We stand ready to work together and I will be talking to my G7 partners in the coming days about how we can continue to strive for a political solution that brings an end to the suffering of the Syrian people".

Lavrov is also subtly mocking Tillerson for the fact that top U.S. State Department positions are unfilled.

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With a shared willingness to mend the battered ties, Russian Federation and the USA agreed on Wednesday to work together on an investigation of the Syrian chemical weapons attack, although the divergence in their stances have not changed much.

The chill in Moscow today was a far cry from the atmosphere a year ago.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump said the United States' relationship with Moscow "may be at an all-time low".

Lavrov said worldwide experts should be sent to the place where the chemicals were used. Trump himself accused Putin of backing "an animal" and "a butcher", someone who is "truly an evil person". It's very bad for this world.

Giving Tillerson a chilly reception, Lavrov said Russian Federation was trying to understand the "real intentions" of the Trump administration.

Russian Federation said rebels dispersed whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

"When you look at what happened with this chemical attack, we knew that we could not stand passive on this", he said.

MARGARET WARNER: Tensions are over more than Syria. Putin's decision to host Tillerson signaled Moscow's intent to maintain communication with the US even as the countries bash each other publicly in louder and louder tones.