Tillerson faces tough talks in Moscow amid increased tensions

Through WASHINGTON

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s seek advice from to Moscow this week might be an early take a look at of whether or not the Trump administration can use any momentum generated Through a missile attack on a Syrian air base to craft and execute a approach to end the Syrian war.

Even ahead of Trump ordered last week’s strike in retaliation for a nerve gas assault, Tillerson’s talk over with Was sure to be dominated Through thorny concerns, including Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, an obvious violation of a very powerful arms regulate treaty, and seeing what cooperation, if any, is conceivable in the battle towards Islamic State.

Now, Tillerson, a former oil govt with no diplomatic experience, is charged with averting an important U.S. disagreement with Russia while exacting some concessions from Moscow. Those include getting rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ultimate chemical weapons and pressing Assad to barter Syria’s future.

The Kremlin mentioned on Monday Tillerson Used To Be no longer scheduled to fulfill with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit, a move that would point to tensions.

It may also suggest that Tillerson will as a substitute observe strict diplomatic protocol and only meet his direct counterpart, Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov. The State Department said closing week a meeting had no longer been proven with Putin, who met with Tillerson when the Texan headed Exxon Mobil.

Russia, together with Iran, is Assad’s main backer, and its intervention in Syria’s battle has been a very powerful to making sure his grip on energy, even though no longer over the whole usa.

Tillerson mentioned he had not considered laborious evidence that Russia knew ahead of time in regards to the chemical weapons assault, which killed at least 70 people, However he deliberate to urge Moscow to rethink its reinforce for Assad within the April 12 talks.

“I Am hopeful that we are able to have optimistic talks with the Russian govt, with Overseas Minister Lavrov and have Russia be supportive of a course of so one can result in a steady Syria,” Tillerson advised ABC’s “The Week” on Sunday.

The U.S. cruise missile strike on Thursday, meant to dissuade Assad from the usage of chemical weapons once more, provides Tillerson extra credibility with Russian officials and can enhance his efforts, observers and former officers stated. Tillerson is because of meet with Russian officials on Wednesday, and is predicted to satisfy with Putin and Lavrov.

“The demonstration of the administration’s willingness to use drive has the prospective so as to add some leverage to the diplomacy,” mentioned Antony Blinken, a deputy to former Secretary of State John Kerry.

The U.S. strike – ordered lower than three days after the gasoline assault – might make it clear to Russia that the united states will grasp Moscow guilty for Assad, Blinken stated.

Tillerson should be “very subject of reality” in his conferences, Blinken stated, sending Russia a message that: “Should You do not rein him in, we can take further motion.”

Tillerson stated on Thursday that Russia had “failed in its accountability” to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons under a 2013 agreement, which he argued confirmed Russia Was both complicit with the gas attacks or “simply incompetent.” Securing a Russian dedication on putting off Assad’s chemical weapons is prone to be first on his agenda, stated Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

RUSSIAN LEVERAGE WITH ASSAD

The talks will be a huge check of Tillerson’s diplomatic abilities. As a former chief executive at Exxon Mobil, he has experience doing industry in Russia, However no background in the steadily public negotiations that international diplomacy requires.

It is also doubtful if Trump, who has expressed skepticism about multilateral institutions corresponding to the ecu Union and United Countries, could have endurance for the protracted negotiations that a comprehensive deal on Syria would require.

Russia condemned the missile strike as unlawful and Putin stated it will hurt U.S.-Russia ties. Moscow also stated it will preserve defense force channels of verbal exchange open with Washington, But would now not trade any data through them.

It Was an unforeseen turn of occasions for Trump, who praised Putin many times during remaining year’s election marketing campaign and mentioned he want to work more carefully with Russia to defeat Islamic State. Just over per week ago, high administration officials had been signaling that taking away Assad is now not a U.S. priority.

However one senior professional stated it Was Once important that Russia suspended, and didn’t cancel, cooperation with the united states after the air strike. Nor did Lavrov cancel Tillerson’s visit to Moscow, suggesting Russia is also keen to tolerate the one strike. As of this weekend, the talks were still on.

“They’re going to check out to attract a line around this incident,” mentioned Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia all through the George W. Bush administration. “They’re nonetheless not giving up on working with the Trump administration.”

The Trump administration also needs to maintain the point of interest in Syria on defeating Islamic State reasonably than opening a warfare with Russia or Syria’s executive.

Some Other U.S. reputable mentioned one hope is that Moscow will see Tillerson’s seek advice from and a discussion about learn how to cooperate to prevent Assad’s use of banned weapons as a tacit acknowledgement of Russia’s nice power status, one in every of Putin’s primary ambitions.

“The strikes are not essentially a nasty thing for Russia,” mentioned Andrew Tabler, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Coverage. “Russia’s had a very onerous time getting President Assad to return to the negotiating Desk in any roughly significant way.”

Now, Tabler stated, the Russians can point to more U.S. strikes as the cost of further intransigence With The Aid Of Assad.

(Enhancing Via John Walcott, Bill Trott and James Dalgleish)

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