Tillerson visits Russia as tensions over Syria flare

Published: 2017-04-12 03:46:02
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Rex Tillerson arrives in Moscow for crunch talks with Russian officials.[Photo: Getty]

Rex Tillerson arrives in Moscow for crunch talks with Russian officials.[Photo: Getty]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started his two-day visit to Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Moscow will remain open to frank dialogue and joint work with Washington in spite of bilateral tensions.

"In connection with the beginning of today's working visit of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Russia, we would like to note that we are counting on fruitful negotiations. This is important not only for the prospects of further bilateral interaction, but also for the general atmosphere in the international arena." The ministry's Information and Press department said in a statement.

Tillerson arrived in Moscow Tuesday on first visit by a Trump Cabinet official to Russia and was scheduled to hold talks Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

According to the statement, Lavrov and Tillerson will discuss multiple issues of mutual interests as well as a string of regional issues concerning Libya, Yemen, DPRK, Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic with the aim of reducing international tension.

"We have always been and remain open to the most frank dialogue with the U.S. on any issues of bilateral and international agenda and to joint work in areas where our goals coincide," the ministry said, specifying that such areas include fighting terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, settling regional conflicts and economic growth.

Tillerson speaks with US Ambassador to Russia John F Tefft. [Photo: Getty]

Tillerson speaks with US Ambassador to Russia John F Tefft. [Photo: Getty]

Noting that Russian-U.S. relations are going through a rather difficult period, the ministry said that the U.S. attitude towards stabilization and normalization of bilateral relations needs to be confirmed and that Russia will "not surrender its legitimate interests and accept cooperation only on an equal basis".

"We tune in not to confrontation, but to constructive cooperation. We hope that the American side wants the same,"the statement said.

Tensions between Russia and the U.S. have aggravated recenlty.

The U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in the central province of Homs Thursday, which it claims to be in response to the alleged Syrian government's chemical weapons attack last Tuesday in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Before setting off for Moscow, Tillerson said on Tuesday at a G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Italy that Russia did not fulfill its obligations under the 2013 agreement on destruction of chemical weapons in Syria which stipulated Russia as the guarantor.

In the statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry reiterated that the attack by the U.S. on Syria is an act of aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, which leads in fact to the strengthening of terrorists.

It was reported earlier that Tillerson will also be received by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that no confirmation has been made yet of Putin's meeting with Tillerson.

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