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US berates Syria at OPCW meeting on Syria chemical attack
March 23 2018, 10:51 | Irvin Gilbert
It was always unlikely the Russians would announce any immediate U-turn on Syria or support for president Bashar al-Assad.
Earlier in the day, the Russian president expressed a similar sentiment to Tillerson, telling a state TV station that "the level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded". "By the time I'm finished, it's going to be a lot better place to live in, because right now it's nasty", he said. Tillerson has a meeting set later Wednesday in Moscow with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Moscow initially said Putin would not meet with Tillerson, but later relented. In response, Lavrov gave what amounted to a long lecture on what he described as an extensive list of USA efforts to achieve "regime change" around the world, from Serbia to Iraq to Libya.
Mr Putin said he believed the U.S. would launch more missile strikes, and rebels were planning to stage chemical attacks to provoke more strikes.
Both Syria and Russian Federation have denied that forces loyal to the Assad regime carried out the toxic gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April.
Lavrov, echoing past denials of any Russian hacking or other interference in the electoral process, said Moscow hasn't seen "a single fact, or even a hint at facts" proving the USA allegations of Russian interference. "He hasn't threatened us at all", Lavrov responded. "But if I see them using gas...we have to do something". Lavrov said a "deconfliction" hotline would be restored to avoid inadvertent collisions by the air forces of both countries in the Syrian war zones. "We are ready to help bring this conflict to an end", US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council as it met.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump said the United States' relationship with Moscow "may be at an all-time low".
The Russian foreign minister argued overthrowing a dictator can make conditions worse. Russian Federation strongly opposes the move in a region it considers part of its strategic sphere of interest.
In the latest veto, Russian Federation blocked a draft resolution backed by the United States, France and Britain to denounce the attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun and tell Assad's government to provide access for investigators and information such as flight plans. Bolivia voted against the measure and 10 other council members supported it.
In his first interview since the April 4 incident prompted a United States cruise missile attack on Syrian forces, Assad insisted his army gave up all of its chemical weapons three years ago and that Syrian military power was not affected by the U.S. strike. But he did not threaten to lessen America's contribution or any other moves if partners do not begin paying 2 percent of their respective GDPs, as NATO's charter calls for. According to the AP, Lavrov accused the US of launching an unlawful attack against Assad.
The text also condemned the reported use of chemical weapons and demanded a speedy investigation. Western governments and Syrian monitoring groups, including the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, say the chemical assault harmed civilians. The U.S. also accused Russian Federation of mounting a disinformation campaign aimed at exonerating Assad from blame for the attack.
Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had said his country agreed a United Nations investigation into the attack just hours before it vetoed the resolution, which also called for an investigation, on Wednesday. The health minister in Turkey, which treated numerous attack's victims and conducted autopsies on others, said Tuesday that test results conducted on victims confirmed sarin gas was used. There are presently three open investigations into Russia's reputed interference in November's U.S. presidential election - two in Congress and one at the U.S. Department of Justice.
"It is a serious issue".
"To Assad and the Syrian government: you have no friends in the world after your frightful actions", Haley said.