US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has issued “an ultimatum to Russia,” AP is reporting.
Namely, Washington wants Moscow to “side” with the US and its allies – or “embrace” Iran, Hezbollah, and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
According to the agency, Tillerson said ahead of his trip to Moscow that it was “unclear whether Russia had failed to take seriously its obligation to rid Syria of chemical weapons, or had merely been incompetent” but that the difference “doesn’t much matter to the dead.”
His statement came moments after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that relations between the two countries had sunk to the lowest level since the Cold War.
This comes two days after the US attacked a Syrian military base, and Moscow’s strong reaction. Russia sees Assad as an ally and a legally elected president, while the US attack is described as an act of aggression against a sovereign country – that helps rebels and terrorists.
However, EU, German, French, and Japanese officials supported the attack.
Speaking on Tuesday, Tillerson said:
“We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia can be a 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 interests longer term.”
“It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. But the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside of a unified Syria,” he said.
Tillerson was in Italy on Tuesday where he attended a meeting of G-7 foreign ministers.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano announced after the meeting that there was no consensus for new sanctions on Russia – the idea came from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – over its support for the Syrian president.