Russia vetoes UN resolution to condemn Syria chemical attack

President Trump said Wednesday that relations with Russian Federation "may be at an all-time low" following Syria's use of chemical weapons last week and the US airstrike that followed.

"I really think there's going to be a lot of pressure on Russian Federation to make sure that peace happens, because frankly, if Russian Federation didn't go in and back this animal, we wouldn't have a problem right now", Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network, referring to Assad.

Stoltenberg further reminded Trump in the afternoon presser that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation serves as a check on Russian aggression.

The meeting agenda wasn't announced.

US President Donald Trump offered an olive branch to Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, even as Washington and Moscow clashed over Russia's alleged US election interference and Syria's brutal conflict.

The meeting was steeped in geopolitical intrigue, with neither country saying ahead of time if it would take place or not.

"There is a low level of trust between our countries", Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"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.

China's Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi said China supports the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in conducting a comprehensive, objective and impartial investigation into relevant cases. "We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future".

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The tense start to Tillerson's visit illustrated the widening chasm between the former Cold War foes.

The news conference came after Russian President Vladimir Putin met the top American diplomat for nearly two hours to see if they could rescue relations between the world's mightiest military powers.

While the U.S. says not all available intelligence has been released to protect its sources and the methods, it affirms that sarin gas was released from a pipe dropped from the air. The action was prompted by the horrific sarin gas attack in Ghouta in August of 2013.

Trump has given such criticism short shrift, decrying the "vicious slaughter of innocent civilians with chemical weapons" and calling Assad "a butcher". "We are mindful of the seriousness of that particular interference in our elections and I'm sure that Russian Federation is mindful of it as well".

The palpable tension hanging over Tillerson's trip spoke to a widening chasm between the two world powers.

"No one anywhere in the world should ever face that kind of suffering", said Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, referring to the victims in chiding both Russian Federation and Syria after the results of the vote were announced. 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.

In an interview that aired Wednesday, Trump said that Putin was partly to blame for the conflict in Syria and denounced him for backing President Bashar Assad, whom he called an "animal".

Russia's Safronkov called the US strikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for the Khan Sheikhoun a provocation, but Delattre said they were "a legitimate response to a mass crime which could not go unpunished".

Mr Putin, speaking on Mir television, also said trust had "deteriorated" between the USA and Russian Federation under the Trump presidency.

  • Adam Floyd