Russian President Vladimir Putin’s impromptu meeting with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has not eased tensions between the two countries, the Kremlin says.
- Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson meeting reflects Russia’s desire to “maintain a dialogue”
- No talk of Mr Putin meeting with Donald Trump
- Sergey Lavrov says “the results will not come quickly”
The Russian leader had refused to hold talks with the top US diplomat during his visit to Moscow but Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the pair did meet, reflecting the “the need to maintain a dialogue to search for solutions”.
Mr Tillerson was greeted with a frosty reception when he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, less than a week after US forces launched strikes against Moscow ally Syria.
Mr Putin gave Mr Tillerson his view of the causes of the current “deadlock” in bilateral ties, Mr Peskov said.
“We hope that the US President will become aware of that analysis,” he said.
Mr Peskov said it was “too early” to say US-Russia relations were improving and added that there was no talk of a possible Trump-Putin meeting.
Shortly after the meeting US President Donald Trump tweeted that he was hopeful of improved ties between the two countries.
Donald Trump: “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!”
Earlier Mr Trump said that US-Russia ties “may be at an all-time low” and Mr Tillerson struck a similar tone after a day of talks in Moscow.
Mr Lavrov said Mr Trump’s administration had found itself under pressure from those who “want to prevent it from curing the wounds inflicted by Barack Obama’s administration and are using the Russian card in internal political struggle”.
Russia’s hopes for a thaw in Russia-US ties following Mr Trump’s election have been shattered by the congressional investigation into alleged ties between Mr Trump’s campaign associates and Russia.
The tense back-and-forth over last week’s deadly chemical attack in Syria has also added to the strain.
“It’s deplorable, and we regret what is going on, but we can do little except asking to back accusations with facts,” Mr Lavrov said.
“There hasn’t been a single fact, although under the pressure of President Donald Trump’s foes the White House has been forced to periodically make statements containing unfounded accusations against us.”
Still, Mr Lavrov sought to put a positive spin on the talks with Mr Tillerson, saying they helped improve mutual understanding.
“The results will not come quickly,” Mr Lavrov said.
“But at least we agreed to establish a dialogue on a number of important issues, including problems created by the previous administration.”
‘Low level of trust between two countries’
Mr Trump last week ordered the airstrikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that left more than 70 dead.
He was asked on Wednesday if Syria could have launched the attack without Russia’s knowledge.
“I would like to think that they [Russia] didn’t know, but certainly they could have, they were there,” he said.
“We’ll find out. General [James] Mattis is looking into it with the entire Pentagon group that does that kind of work.”
In his talks with Mr Lavrov on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson reiterated the US position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must eventually relinquish power in Syria — a position starkly at odds with Russia.
“There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Mr Tillerson said.
“The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”
A satellite image shows the damage following a US airstrike on the Shayrat military airbase in Syria. (AP: DigitalGlobe)
How can Australians help people in Syria?
According to the Red Cross, the most efficient way of helping people caught in the crossfire in Syria is with monetary support. Here are some of the organisations helping people in the region:
- UNHCR runs camps for people displaced in Syria, has provided shelter, blankets, heating stoves and aid items to more than 2.3 million people. Since conflict began, Australia for UNHCR has raised $10.8 million to close UNHCR’s funding gap in Syria
- UNICEF has been providing Syria’s children shelter, nutrition, clean water and sanitisation, temporary learning spaces and psychosocial services
- Red Cross donations reach 5 million Syrians each month with food, water, first aid, hygiene kits, blankets and cash grants
- World Vision are providing food, clean water, sanitation, health care and winter essentials directly to people in Syria. It’s also helping displaced Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan
- In Syria, Save the Children are also providing food, clean water, medicines and shelter. It’s supporting schools and teachers to ensure children are able to continue their education
- CARE Australia is delivering emergency aid, shelter kits and food parcels in Syria to displaced families in areas under siege
- Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia (Doctors Without Borders) operates medical facilities inside Syria, as well as directly supporting more than 150 medical structures throughout the country
- Oxfam is on the ground in Syria and in Jordan and Lebanon providing emergency assistance for Syrians