Russian Federation blocks UN Security Council condemnation of Syria attack

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Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian leader on Wednesday gave Tillerson his view of the causes of the current "deadlock" in bilateral ties.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 12, 2017, in Washington.

World leaders had called for a probe into the "barbaric" attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week, which caused an worldwide outcry and prompted a retaliatory U.S. missile strike. Tillerson said Syria's government had committed more than 50 attacks using chlorine or other chemical weapons over the duration of the conflict.

Lavrov said Wednesday that a United Nations chemical weapons watchdog must conduct an "objective and unbiased probe" into the chemical attack that killed dozens of people.

Lavrov also says that Russian President Vladimir Putin could restore a military hotline with the US if Washington focuses on fighting the Islamic State and other extremist groups. The Kremlin had previously declined to confirm Putin would meet Tillerson, reflecting tensions over the USA strike on Syria.

Tillerson met Putin in the Kremlin after talking to his Russian counterpart Lavrov for three hours.

As Tillerson sat down for talks with Lavrov on Wednesday, a volley of statements, including from a senior Russian official, appeared timed to maximise the awkwardness during the first visit to Moscow by a member of Trump's cabinet.

Russia's Safronkov called the US strikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for the Khan Sheikhoun a provocation, but Delattre said they were "a legitimate response to a mass crime which could not go unpunished".

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson got an unusually hostile reception in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in the early months of Donald Trump's presidency.

But while Lavrov also said that the two countries have a "common interest" in a political settlement in Syria, Tillerson asserted that the USA does not see a future political role for Assad.

Putin also asserted that Syria has complied with an agreement to dispose of chemical weapons "so far as we know". They range from NATO's expansion and European missile defense systems to a fear the U.S.is promoting opposition to pro-Russian leaders and even Putin himself. And Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was at this joint news conference, did his part to appeal to the Trump administration by blaming everything on the Obama administration, constantly saying that's why we're at this point. However, despite earlier warnings, Tillerson drove to the Kremlin immediately after his meeting ended for a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Unless Trump can turn things around when he meets Putin personally in an ultra-high stakes encounter expected in Europe this summer, his aspirations of breaking the cycle of confrontation and critical rhetoric between the White House and the Kremlin may have already fizzled.

Tillerson traveled to Moscow with a joint message from Western powers that Russian Federation should withdraw its support for Assad after a meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized economies also attended by Middle East allies.

"The Trump administration came in with a set of problems and a level of disagreement that are more hard to just put aside in the way the Bush and Obama administrations had been able to do", said Stephen Sestanovich, a Council on Foreign Relations expert who was US ambassador-at-large for the former Soviet Union from 1997 to 2001. Russia wants the U.S.to eliminate sanctions on Moscow related to its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

However, Lavrov added some progress had been made on Syria at the meeting, adding that a working group would be set up to examine the poor state of US-Russia ties.

Lavrov is also subtly mocking Tillerson for the fact that top U.S. State Department positions are unfilled. But after last week's chemical weapons attack their relationship is increasingly becoming a burden for Putin, jeopardizing chances for improved relations with the U.S.

Trump came to the presidency promising to seek closer ties with Russian Federation and greater cooperation fighting against their common enemy in Syria, Islamic State. Trump told Fox Business Network that his strikes were exclusively because Assad used chemical weapons.

Trump is increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon Assad just as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting Moscow.

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