After an unscheduled two-hour meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a joint news conference in Moscow Wednesday night. It appears that much ground was covered on major matters at issue, but little common ground was found.
Tillerson stated: “We have conclusive evidence that the chemical attack [in Idlib] was planned, directed and executed by Syrian governments” – whereupon Lavrov put in: “We have a difference of opinion on this. We say there is no evidence and urge a thorough, objective investigation of this charge by the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).”
Lavrov noted that the “absolute defeat of ISIS” was a common goal in the interests of both countries and the world. The two sides did agree broadly to work bilaterally for a solution to the Syrian crisis based on a unifed and stable country. Lavrov spoke of the “Geneva process” and Astana.
Secretary Tillerson laid more stress on the need to halt the progressive “degradation” of Russian-US relations in recent years and announced the establishment of a working group to bring improvements on specific issues.