Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t mince words about his country’s position on U.S. action in Syria when he met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday.
Lavrov told his American counterpart that Washington’s airstrike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was an “unlawful attack” stemming from “ambiguous as well as contradictory” U.S. policy in Syria, ABC News reported.
“We have seen just recent highly alarming actions, when there was the unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said. “We believe it fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future.”
Tillerson arrived in Moscow Tuesday for his first visit to Russia as secretary of state. The meetings with Lavrov and other Kremlin officials come as the U.S. and Russia are at odds over the fate of the Russian-backed Syrian government.
Tillerson reiterated Monday the position that al-Assad must leave power and said Russia bears some responsibility for the regime’s targeting of civilian populations. (RELATED: Tillerson Says Bashar al-Assad Must Go)
“We want to create a future for Syria that is stable and secure,” Tillerson said Monday during a G-7 meeting in Italy. “Russia can be part of that future and play an important role or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interest longer term.”
Tillerson struck a more diplomatic tone in his public remarks on Wednesday, telling Lavrov that “our lines of communication shall always remain open.”
“Our meetings today come at an important moment in the relationship so that we can further clarify areas of common objectives, areas of common interest, even when our tactical approaches may be different, and to further clarify areas of sharp difference so that we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be,” he said.
Lavrov did concede that Moscow believes there is room for cooperation with Washington on Syria and other areas of mutual interest, especially counter-terrorism.
“I believe that your visit is quite timely,” Lavrov told Tillerson. “I believe that it gives us necessary opportunity, as it was discussed by President Trump and President Putin, to have an honest and frank discussion to clear the outlook for the future of our cooperation, first and foremost on the wide anti-terrorist front.”
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