Russia knew Syrian chemical attack was coming

Airborne operations near Hohenfels Germany during Saber Junction 16. DVIDSHUB  Public domain

Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano said ministers want Russian Federation to pressure Assad, but warned, "We must not push Russian Federation into a corner".

Alfano said negotiations with Russian Federation "will be complex, but the first step is already very important", referring to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Moscow today and tomorrow.

Last week's nerve gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people, stirred President Donald Trump - who was previously cool to the idea of US intervention - to strike for the first time at Assad's forces.

John Kerry, Tillerson's predecessor, often met Putin as well as the Russian foreign minister when he visited Moscow, and Putin granted several audiences to the Texan when he ran oil major Exxon Mobil before taking his current job. Those include getting rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's remaining chemical weapons and pressing Assad to negotiate Syria's future.

"Now is the right moment to talk about how we can push for a peace process in Syria within the global community - with Russian Federation, with Iran, with Saudi Arabia, with Europe, with the United States", he said as he arrived.

Tillerson's comments came an hour before he flew to Moscow from a Group of Seven meeting in Italy to meet with his Russian counterpart.

Russia, along with Iran, is Assad's primary backer, and its intervention in Syria's war has been crucial to ensuring his grip on power, although no longer over the entire country.

Over the weekend, Alfano said that Europe's broad support for the US military strikes had contributed to a "renewed harmony" between the United States and its partners as the G-7 foreign ministers prepared to meet for the first time since Donald Trump took office in January.

The ministry said in a three-page statement issued ahead of Tillerson's arrival later on Tuesday that the outcome of the talks is important not only for the Russia-U.S. ties but "for the overall atmosphere on the world stage".

Mattis says he trusts Assad regrets last week's chemical weapons attack, given the USA retaliatory strikes.

Tillerson said it was clear the USA saw no role for Assad in Syria's future, given that he had lost legitimacy.

Tillerson said Tuesday that "It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end".

He said the USA can not allow the use of chemical weapons to happen again. But they were divided about how to deal with Syria, and Moscow.

Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said on Monday that the USA strikes had shown Washington's total unwillingness to cooperate on Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson steps off his plane at Pisa Military Airport in Pisa, Italy, on Sunday, April 9, 2017.

The Trump administration is hoping that after defeating the Islamic State group in Syria, it can restore stability by securing local cease-fires between Assad's government and opposition groups that allow local leaders who have fled to return and by restoring basic services.

Ben Rhodes, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, took to Twitter early Saturday to defend his former boss and take a veiled shot at President Donald Trump.

The ministers will also talk about growing tensions with North Korea, with the United States moving a navy strike group near the Korean peninsula amid concerns over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Johnson cancelled his visit to Moscow planned for later this week to work on the proposal - much to Russia's annoyance, who blasted his actions as "deplorable".

The US president's spokesman Sean Spicer warned on Monday that further action would be considered in certain circumstances. From Washington's perspective, the airstrikes, with some success, served to distract attention from the Trump administration's problems at home.

The Foreign Secretary said Mr Trump's decision to launch cruise missiles against a Syrian air base in response to the regime's use of sarin nerve agent had "changed the game" and the Russians had to decide which side they were on.

Despite Moscow denying the accusations, the USA imposed a wave of sanctions against Russian Federation, with the European Union following in American tracks shortly afterwards.

Both Moscow and Damascus have denied that Assad's forces dropped the chemicals, claiming that the gas was released accidentally when a Syrian airstrike hit a "terrorist warehouse" containing "toxic substances".

Related News: