Seeking to salvage ties, US and Russia agree on Syria probe

Russia's veto of a United Nations resolution condemning a deadly chemical attack in Syria and pushing Bashar Assad's regime to co-operate with an worldwide inquiry put the country on the "wrong side" of the argument, the Foreign Secretary said.

More than 80 people were killed in what the USA has described as a nerve gas attack that Syrian president Bashar Assad's forces undoubtedly carried out.

Moscow's hostility to Trump administration figures is a sharp change from previous year, when Putin hailed Trump as a strong figure and Russian state television was often full of effusive praise for him.

With tensions rising over Syria and other issues, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that USA relations with Russian Federation "may be at an all-time low" as he moved ever further away from his campaign promises to establish better ties with Moscow. As the U.S.is preparing to launch an offensive on Raqqa, the stronghold of ISIL in Syria, it is important to sustain communication with Russian Federation, which has consolidated its power on the ground after securing the regime with military and diplomatic support.

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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted USA claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that "if it is decided" that the Russian president needs to be briefed on the outcome of the Tillerson-Lavrov talks, he will meet them.

Safronkov gave strong backing to efforts by United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura to get the Syrian government and opposition to discuss key political issues in Geneva.

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At the G7 meeting, British and US officials were unable to persuade fellow members to adopt new sanctions against Russian Federation for the chemical attack.

He said working groups would be established to improve U.S.

Tillerson reiterated the US position that Assad must eventually relinquish power in Syria.

He said the USA attack on the Syrian air base "was carried out in violation of worldwide norms".

Lavrov says Russian Federation has lots of questions about the "very ambiguous" and "contradictory" ideas coming from the U.S. He says through a translator that it's important for Russian Federation to understand the "real intentions" of the Trump administration.

To help accomplish that goal, Tillerson said he will form a "working group" with Russian Federation to address lesser issues, so high-level talks can focus on resolving larger points of conflict. "We're going to see how that all works out". Trump told Fox Business Network that his strikes were exclusively because Assad used chemical weapons.

"A successful ouster of a dictator is for me very hard to remember", Lavrov said.

Lavrov blasted US claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference. Putin said that either gas belonging to the rebels was released when it was hit by a Syrian strike on a rebel arms dump, or the rebels faked the incident to discredit Assad.

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"Our meetings today come at an important moment in the relationship", Tillerson said as he and Lavrov faced each other at a long conference table, "so that we can further clarify areas of common objectives, areas of common interests, even when our tactical approaches might be different, and to clarify areas of sharp difference, so that we can better understand why these differences exist, and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be".

Moscow, however, on Wednesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned the chemical attack and called for Assad's regime to furnish information about its military activities the day it happened.

"That's a butcher. That's a butcher", Trump said of Assad.

"So I think this is a characterization Assad brought on himself", he said.

"And of course, that's not to mention that apart from the statements, we observed very recently the extremely worrying actions, when an illegal attack against Syria was undertaken".

Of Assad, Trump added: "This is an animal".

Russia, Assad's staunchest ally, has insisted the Syrian leader is blameless and that rebels disbursed chemical weapons.

"The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded", Putin said in an interview broadcast Wednesday by state television channel Mir.

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