United States and Russian Federation struggle to overcome rifts in Moscow

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he aims to clear up "sharp differences" with Russia as he opens a tense meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Federation has also denied a chemical weapons attack took place in Syria saying the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun were caused by a Syrian regime airstrike on a rebel-controlled chemical weapons factory on the ground.

Tillerson travelled to Moscow with a joint message from Western powers that Russian Federation should withdraw its support for Assad after a meeting of the Group of Seven industrialised economies also attended by Middle East allies.

It was the eighth veto by Russian Federation, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on a Western-backed Syria resolution and reflected the deep division that has left the U.N.'s most powerful body struggling to tackle the use of banned chemical weapons and to help end the six-year Syrian conflict. After Wednesday meetings with Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tillerson refused to paper over differences between Washington and Moscow on the issue of responsibility for the sarin attack in Syria or the extent of Russian meddling in USA and European elections.

The Moscow news conference came after Mr Putin met Mr Tillerson for the first time since Mr Trump took office. He said working groups would be established to improve U.S.

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As Tillerson sat down for talks with Lavrov earlier on Wednesday, a senior Russian official assailed the "primitiveness and loutishness" of United States rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximise the awkwardness during the first visit by a member of Trump's Cabinet.

Russian Federation presented a separate draft text condemning the United States military strikes in Syria and requesting an OPCW investigation, but it was uncleaer whether that measure would come up for a vote.

"The Trump administration came in with a set of problems and a level of disagreement that are more hard to just put aside in the way the Bush and Obama administrations had been able to do", said Stephen Sestanovich, a Council on Foreign Relations expert who was US ambassador-at-large for the former Soviet Union from 1997 to 2001.

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

"With its veto, Russia said "no" to accountability, Russia said "no" to cooperation with the UN's independent investigation and Russia said "no" to a resolution that would have helped to promote peace in Syria", said US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

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Trump's relations with Russian Federation are also a domestic issue, as USA intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of using computer hacking to intervene in the election to help Trump win. But any expectations of an easy rapport have crashed into reality as the two countries trade escalating accusations over what happened last week in rebel-held territory in northern Syria. 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 warplanes hitting a rebel chemical weapons facility.

But such hopes appeared optimistic as the diplomats outlined their sharply diverging views on Syria. Tillerson's mission sees the Trump administration taking on the traditional United States role as spokesman for a unified Western position. And he suggested that possible war crimes charges could be levied against the Syrian leader.

He said the two sides would also discuss disagreements on Syria and how to end the country's six-year civil war.

For Trump, it's a dramatic reversal from his repeated campaign pledges to forge a new U.S. He tells Fox Business Network that Putin's support for Assad is "very bad for Russian Federation". "We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future".

But U.S. officials say there is "no doubt" that the Assad regime was behind the attack, possibly with sarin gas, that killed dozens of people including many children. "Are we going to get involved with Syria?" "I feel ashamed, I feel ashamed".

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