No positive shift yet on US-Russia ties

20 April, 2017, 13:44 | Author: Valerie Burke

But that prospect appeared remote, with Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, getting a frosty reception in Moscow, and Russian Federation using its U.N. Security Council veto to swat down a US -backed resolution demanding Syrian cooperation in probing last week's suspected sarin attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed 87 civilians.

In one of its strongest denunciations to date, the Trump administration on Wednesday made clear that it was not buying Russia's denial of knowledge or allowance of Bashar al-Assad's most recent use of chemical weapons.

"We have no firm information to indicate there was any involvement by Russia, Russian forces, into this attack", Tillerson said, The Washington Post reported.

China - one of the five permanent Security Council members which hold veto power - abstained from the vote, as did Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.

The draft resolution sought to condemn the gas attack and strengthen an global investigation into what happened. "Security Council members should have found compromise language that would have ensured an immediate investigation at the site of last week's attack".

Undaunted by Russia's veto, Trump called on USA allies to "work together to resolve the disaster" in Syria and thanked them for condemning Assad's suspected sarin attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun, which killed 87 civilians. "By its failure, Russian Federation will continue to be isolated". "The days of your arrogance and disregard of humanity are over". He added there was no talk Wednesday about a possible Trump-Putin meeting.

Syrian president Bashar Assad insisted that his military was not responsible for the incident and claimed the attack was a "fabrication" to justify the United States missile strike. Tillerson said he aims to clear up "sharp differences" with Russian Federation.

Lavrov pointed to the provocative US strike against the Syrian airbase al-Sharyat, adding that the hysteria on the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria should not undermine the efforts on settling the conflict in the framework of the processes in Astana and Geneva.

Britain's Ambassador, Sir Geoffrey Adams, told the meeting that United Kingdom scientists have analyzed samples from Khan Shaykhun and they "tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance".

"And the President and the United States has expressed clearly that they want to have a dialogue with Russian Federation, but based on strength and unity in the alliance", he added. He questioned how foreign experts already could have concluded that Damascus is responsible. Mr Tillerson said evidence that Assad's regime planned and carried out the attack was "conclusive". "How do you know that?" That approach could help push to bring key United Nations players back to the table for Syrian ceasefire negotiations, which could begin as soon as May, according to Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy for Syria. He warned that the talks were overshadowed by an intensification of fighting on the ground and urged the restoration of a nationwide cease-fire.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in Moscow meeting with his Russian counterpart, has taken a softer line, saying he "hoped" the Syrian people would choose to oust Assad from power. "But I do think it's going to happen at a certain point", Trump said.

"They must find a way to work together, to stabilize the situation, in a deliberate, realistic and concerted way, in support of the political process", de Mistura said. "The stakes in Syria are very high".

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