Tillerson and Lavrov open tense meeting in Moscow

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he aims to clear up “sharp differences” with Moscow as he opened a tense meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov are meeting in the Russian capital amid rising tensions over Syria.
Mr Lavrov says Russia has lots of questions about the “very ambiguous” and “contradictory” ideas coming from the US.

He said, through a translator, that it is important for Russia to understand the “real intentions” of the Trump administration. Mr Tillerson said he wanted to understand why US-Russia differences exist. He says both countries have agreed that their lines of communications must stay open.

Mr Lavrov also subtly mocked Mr Tillerson over the fact that top US State Department positions are unfilled. He says that makes it hard to have clarity about US positions. Earlier, President Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin is backing an “evil person” in Syria.

Mr Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad is “an animal”. He told Fox Business Network that Mr Putin’s support for Mr Assad is “very bad for Russia”. President Trump said it is also “very bad for mankind”.
Mr Putin responded by saying that relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in the early months of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“It can be said that the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Mr Putin said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday by state television channel Mir.

President Putin also asserted that Syria has complied with an agreement to dispose of chemical weapons “so far as we know”. He reiterated previous Russian assertions that the chemical weapons attack last week that prompted a US Tomahawk missile barrage on a Syrian air base was either a rebel provocation or caused by Syrian planes hitting a rebel chemical weapons facility.

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