US, Russia agree on Syria probe
Striving to salvage ties amid a fierce dispute over Syria, the United States and Russia have agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian gas attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.
After a day of discussions with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the former Cold War foes agreed a probe of events in northern Syria on April 4 was necessary.
More than 80 people were killed in what the US has described as a nerve gas attack that Assad’s forces undoubtedly carried out. Russia says rebels dispersed whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.
The news conference came after Russian President Vladimir Putin met the top American diplomat for almost two hours to see if they could rescue relations between the world’s mightiest military powers.
“There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said.
“The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”
He said working groups would be established to improve US-Russian ties and identify problems.
Tillerson was greeted frostily in the Russian capital as Lavrov began their meeting Wednesday by demanding to know America’s “real intentions.”
“We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said.
“We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”
US President Donald Trump even criticised Putin on Wednesday, something he has largely left to top aides over the last several days.
“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person,” Trump said, referring to Assad. “I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind.”
Putin felt trust between the two countries had eroded recently.
“The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said.