Tillerson arrives in Moscow ahead of meeting with Lavrov

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are expected to lock horns over how to end the bloodshed in Syria. This is the first official visit to Russia from a member of the Trump administration.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a welcoming ceremony upon his arrival at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia. April 11, 2017.

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on Tuesday ahead of his meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 12 to mainly discuss how to end the war in Syria.

The meeting follows Tillerson's comments on Sunday when he said Russia was "incompetent" for allowing Syria to maintain stocks of chemical weapons. The war in Syria has entered its seventh year; a recent nerve gas attack by the Syrian regime on its own citizens and retaliatory air strikes by the US on a Syrian airstrip has mounted pressure on global leaders to de-escalate the situation.

Earlier agreements "stipulated Russia as the guarantor of a Syria free of chemical weapons," Tillerson said on Monday before he left for the Russian capital.

"It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously and whether Russia has been incompetent. But this distinction doesn't much matter to the dead. We can't let this happen again."

His visit will be an early test of whether the Trump administration can use any momentum generated by a US missile attack on a Syrian air base to craft and execute a strategy to end the Syrian war.

Even before Trump ordered last week's strike on Syria's military capacity, Tillerson's visit was certain to be dominated by thorny issues, including Russian interference in the 2016 US election, an apparent violation of an important arms control treaty, and seeing what cooperation, if any, is possible in the fight against Daesh.

TRT World'Iolo ap Dafydd reports from Washington DC.

"Our hope is Bashar al Assad will not be part of that future," Tillerson said as G7 foreign ministers, who met in Italy on Monday and Tuesday, urged a diplomatic push to end the Syrian war.

Before Tillerson and Lavrov's meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned against future chemical weapons "provocations" in Syria that would be used to frame Kremlin ally, Assad. 

Putin suggested Russia had information that there are plans of fake chemical attacks which would be then blamed on Assad.


TRTWorld and agencies