Tillerson holds tense talks with Lavrov

AFP-Jiji MOSCOW (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov began tense talks in Moscow on Wednesday as the two sides locked horns over an alleged Syrian chemical attack and subsequent missile strike by Washington.

Tillerson said he wanted “a very open, candid and frank exchange” as the two men try to figure each other out during the first visit to Russia by a senior member of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Our meeting today comes at an important moment in our relationship so that we can further clarify areas of common objectives, areas of common interest — even where our tactical approaches may be different — and further clarify areas of sharp difference so that we can better understand why these differences exist,” Tillerson said.

Lavrov said Moscow was hoping to understand Washington’s “real intentions” during the visit and warned that Moscow considered it “fundamentally important” to prevent more “unlawful” U.S. strikes in Syria.

“Your visit is very timely,” Lavrov said, adding it offers an opportunity to clarify the chances of cooperation between the two sides “above all on the formation of a broad anti-terrorist front.”

Despite hopes of an improvement in Russia-U.S. ties under Trump, the Tillerson-Lavrov talks look set to be dominated by the war of words over Syria — where more than 320,000 people have died in six years of war.

But with U.S. officials suggesting Russian forces may have colluded in the latest atrocity blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it is not clear whether Tillerson will be invited to meet President Vladimir Putin, with the Kremlin only saying there was a “probability” they could talk.Speech

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