Tillerson: 'The Reign of the Assad Family Is Coming to an End'

Syrian President Bashar al Assad makes a stunning statement about the chemical attacks

Syrian President Bashar al Assad makes a stunning statement about the chemical attacks

At Wednesday's meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov confirmed the phone line had been suspended. The move was widely praised by US allies but drew criticism from Syria's chief worldwide partners, Russian Federation and Iran.

Western governments and Syrian monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, say the chemical assault harmed civilians.

Beyond Syria, Russia's alleged meddling in the USA presidential election also hovered over what was the first face-to-face encounter between Putin and any Trump administration Cabinet member.

In his opening remarks, Lavrov also took a subtle dig at the Trump administration, saying it was hard to get clarity on USA stances since there are so many vacancies in top positions at the State Department.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted USA claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference. He also blamed former President Barack Obama's administration for "irritants" in the relationship that he said can now be alleviated.

Western leaders including US President Donald Trump have accused Assad of being behind last week s attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun, saying his forces unleashed a chemical weapon during an air strike. He said the two sides would also discuss disagreements on Syria and how to end the country's six-year civil war.

"There is a low level of trust between our two countries", Tillerson said after the two-hour summit. Russian Federation suspended its role in the system after the US missile strikes, and Lavrov said it could be restored if the USA -led coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria focused only on the Islamic State and other militant groups - and not expand to Syrian government targets.

Under a 2013 deal between the USA and Russian Federation, struck after a chemical attack in suburbs of Damascus killed hundreds of people, Syria was supposed to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal.

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Photo taken on April 12, 2017, shows Vladimir Safronkov (C, front), Russian deputy ambassador to the United Nations, vetoes a Security Council draft resolution on Chemical Attack in Syria, at the UN headquarters in NY.

On Friday, the two will join a three-way meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, another key ally of the Assad regime. "Let's be guided by pragmatic common sense", he said.

A senior US official said that Washington intercepted conversations between Syrian military personnel and chemical experts in which they prepared the gas attack in Idlib, CNN reported on Thursday. Ten countries voted in favor of the text, while Bolivia joined Russian Federation in voting no. "It's one that we know is serious enough to attract additional sanctions", Tillerson said. "I'm sure that Russian Federation is mindful of it as well".

"Right now we're not getting along with Russian Federation at all", Trump said at a White House press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Richard Lugar, who personifies the measured approach to USA foreign policy, on Tuesday offered his first comprehensive critique of President Donald Trump's forays into world affairs.

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"This fixation on trying to oust this or that dictator, an authoritarian or totalitarian leader, is well known to us, and we know how it ends", Lavrov said.

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