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West attempts to ‘undo progress in Syria talks’

MOSCOW

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that anti-Russian forces in the West were trying to destroy progress made in Syrian peace talks with Moscow’s help. Later in the day Russia slammed as “unacceptable” a draft UN Security Council resolution put forward by Britain, France and the United States on an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

“In its current form this project is unacceptable for us,” deputy foreign ministry Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency. “We, of course, will not vote for it.”

Russia earlier said it will veto a draft UN resolution being pushed by the United States, Britain and France which aims to bolster support for international inquiries into a deadly toxic gas attack in Syria, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday.

The draft resolution is similar to a text circulated to the 15-member council last week that condemns the April 4 attack and pushes Syria’s government to cooperate with investigators.

In another development, Russian President Vladimir Putin said ties with the United States have deteriorated under the administration of Donald Trump as their top diplomats locked horns Wednesday over the Syrian conflict.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow in what he said was an attempt to narrow “areas of sharp difference”.

The powers are at odds over the fate of Moscow’s longtime ally President Bashar Al Assad, a rift exacerbated after an alleged Syrian chemical attack last week that triggered a punitive US missile strike.

And as the men entered a day of tense talks, Putin admitted that relations between Washington and Moscow have worsened in the three months that Trump has been in office.

“You can say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military side, has not improved but most likely worsened,” Putin said in the transcript of an interview with Mir television released by the Kremlin.

Tillerson said he wanted “a very open, candid and frank exchange” with Lavrov.

“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,” he said.

Tillerson was expected to challenge Russia to distance itself from Assad and his Iranian backers and to work with Washington’s Western and Arab allies to find a political solution to the conflict with Syria under new leadership.

Lavrov said Moscow was hoping to understand Washington’s “real intentions” and warned that Moscow considered it “fundamentally important” to prevent more “unlawful” US strikes against its ally Syria.

He said the visit – the first to Moscow by a senior Trump administration official — offered an opportunity to clarify the chances of cooperation “above all on the formation of a broad anti-terrorist front”.

Agencies

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