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No meeting of minds

Apr 13,2017 - Last updated at Apr 13,2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow comes a few days after his country attacked from the sea a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the use of a chemical weapon on a remote town in the Idlib province, blamed on the Assad regime.

The chemical attack killed about 80 people and injured many more, yet Russia does not seem to want to budge from its position of support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Tillerson met President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for discussions that were intended to tackle, primarily, the fight against Daesh and safe zones, but that were consumed by the chemical attack in Syria.

The result: not only no warm up in relations between the two superpowers, but, as Tillerson put it, “a low level of trust between our countries”, a relation that “the world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have”.

It appears that Russia felt stung by the US attack on Syria and no amount of US convincing can convince Moscow that Damascus planned and executed the chemical attack.

Lavrov insisted that facts had yet to be determined and Putin accused the Trump administration of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.

“This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when US representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq,” Putin said, bringing back the spectre of a war started on lies, whose result is a disintegrating, destroyed Iraq.

The Russian government called for an independent UN investigation into the chemical weapon attack, but on Wednesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning it and specifically calling on the Syrian government to cooperate with a UN investigation mission.

The high-level talks in Moscow clearly failed to bridge the widening gap between the US and Russia on Syria.

Where relations between the two countries go from this point on is hard to guess.

Will Trump’s often-stated desire to reset relations with Russia come true or will the ties between the two countries stay at the “low” mentioned by Tillerson?

The shape of these relations will also greatly influence the region, which watches with interest the spar between the two giants pumped up by too much ego and with too many interests vested to make them pliant.


Hopefully they will not lose sight of the immediate danger they both pledged to join forces to fight: terrorism.

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