Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tillerson in Moscow


Tillerson and Lavrov Hold Press Conference After Meeting With Putin
12 April, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov today in Russia for a meeting that lasted more than two hours. During the following press conference, they touched upon the topics discussed in the meeting, including Syria and North Korea.


According to Lavrov, they have agreed to designate “special envoys” to have pragmatic conversations to improve Russian-American relations. Lavrov also stated that “we understand each other better” after the talks today.

It seems that the USA and Russia still don’t quite see eye-to-eye on the Syrian crisis, as Russia is calling for an “unbiased and frank investigation” on the chemical attacks by the OPCWLavrov asserted that ousting Assad could lead to an ISIS victory in Syria.

Lavrov pointed out during the time questions that the grounds for the invasion of Iraq were fake, and that the situation in Libya has spiraled out of control after U.S. intervention there in 2011 that led to the capture and death of Muammar Gaddafi. He said that “a successful ouster of a dictator is for me very hard to remember, if you have any examples I would be glad if you can share them with me.”

The Russian foreign secretary also stated his Syrian policy, which he claims correlates with a UN Security Council resolution, saying that “the future of Syria has to be determined by the Syrians themselves, without any exemptions.” He asserted that when discussing how a country needs to be built it needs to be democratic and safe for all parties involved.

Lavrov was also asked whether he saw any evidence from Tillerson that there was election hacking interference in the U.S. election. He sharply rejected this, saying that he had not seen any evidence of Russian involvement.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues to remark that Assad was behind the latest chemical weapons attacks in Syria and that Russia is an ally of Assad. However, it seems that both the USA and Russia agree that North Korea needs to be denuclearized.

Tillerson also said that Russian-American relations were at a new low point and that the world’s leading nuclear powers “cannot have this relationship.” Tillerson said that the USA and Russia “both believe in a unified and stable Syria,” and that they will deny a safe haven for terrorists who want to target both countries.  Tillerson stated in agreement with Lavrov that the USA and Russia need to improve their channels of communication.

There were also apparently talks about how they can settle the conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Israel, and Afghanistan, according to Lavrov though little details were given. However, Tillerson stated that the situation in Ukraine will “remain an obstacle to an improvement in relations between the U.S and Russia.”

Tillerson also spoke on the election hacking scandal which he says is a relatively new problem in the international community, saying that “clearly this is an issue that has emerged in our time for which we have yet as an international community come to some conclusion around how we want to respond to that, so there will be further discussions and it is on the agenda.” He clarified asserting that there is a distinction between cyber tools for election hacking and cyber tools for disrupting weapons programs.


In short, we can pull from this meeting that the USA and Russia want to improve their relations, work closer to establishing a solution to the Syria crisis, despite their differences on the topic, and stand together against the nuclear threat from North Korea. Both countries also have verbally stated their intentions of combatting against cyber crime.

CHECKMATE: 5 ways Russia outwitted the US in one day

Adam Garrie

12 April, 2017

A powerhouse day of Russian diplomacy left the US with few cogent arguments for war.
Today was the day that the US thought it could break Russia’s partnership with Syria and also with Iran. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer laid out the goals clearly yesterday. It was America’s ‘duty’ to break Russia away from countries like Syria, Iran and allegedly North Korea. It didn’t happen.

First of all, Russia and Syria are close partners. Secondly, North Korea is not a partner of Russia, but nor does Russia want renewed conflict in the Korean peninsula.

Most importantly, Russia does not care for the threats and bullying of the US. The US is trying to blackmail Russiawhilst  simultaneous trying to break the back of Syria. The goals are the same, only the tactics differ.  It involves an arrogant America failing to recognise that other countries have opinions, sovereignty and geo-political interests and that those countries will not simply give those up because America desires it.

This is made all the more ironic by the fact that America’s opinions appear to be in constant flux.

1. Morning In Moscow 

The day started with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov making it clear that Russia does not want any further US strikes on Syria.

If Sean Spicer and others thought that Russia would capitulate in the face of rhetorical US threats, Sergey Lavrov set the tone early on; this was not going to happen.

2. Russia Reaches Out To Her Middle East Partners

Lavrov’s clear statement was shortly followed by an announcement that far from breaking Russia away from her partners, Moscow today confirmed that in two days time, the foreign ministers of Iran and Syria will meet with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to discuss what Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described as,
“… (a) trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Syria and Iran will take place in Moscow. [The ministers[ will discuss measures needed to coordinate trilateral steps, so as not to let the situation aggravate and the efforts for a political settlement in Syria be derailed amid the US’ armed aggression against Damascus”.

3. Russia Faces Off the US, UK and France at the Security Council

At the same time, during a heated session of the United Nations Security Council, Russia rejected a US/UK/French draft resolution on an investigation into the Idlib chemical attack that was ‘impartial’ in name only. The resolution pre-assigned blame and guilt to Damascus and Russia vigorously stood up to the hypocrisy implicit in this proposal.

4. T. Rex Finally Meets Putin

It was also announced, during the afternoon that Rex Tillerson and Sergey Lavrov had met with Preisdent Putin. The meeting was not officially scheduled, yet not entirely expected as Tillerson had preivously met Vladimir Putin during the former’s capacity as a the CEO of Exxon. Many felt the meeting would almost certainly be off the table in light of America’s recent illegal attack on Syria. The meeting happened anyway, albeit behind closed doors.

5. Sergey Lavrov Dominates A Press Conference With Rex Tillerson

The day concluded with a joint press conference with Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson.

Lavrov repeated the sentiments of Russian UN Envoy Vladimir Safronkov in saying that instead of conducting a proper, neutral invetigation, the US unilaterally blamed the attack on Damscus. Lavrov said that Russia has other facts. Nevertheless, Russia does not seek to impose any preconceptions, rather, Russia simply wants an honest investigation.

He went on to say that Russia will only resume the memorandum of cooperation on air security in Syria if Washington agrees that the objective of all air operations are conducted in order to fight al-Nusra Front and ISIS.

According to Lavrov, both countries have publicly expressed an intention not to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria. The negative example of Libya and Iraq should be ‘a warning to us all’. He accurately went on to describe Iraq as a disaster and Libya’s statehood as being in jeopardy.

Lavrov emphasised that the lessons of history must not be forgotten. He cited the example of NATO’s actions in  Yugoslavia as a war crime insofar as civilian residences were bombed in addition to bridges, trains a television studio and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. There was of course, no legal authorisation for the attack.

The differences between Russia and American views on Syria were fully on display in spite of diplomatic rhetoric from both sides. Lavrov said that the White Helmets are well known as fraudsters and that other non-governmental sources in Syria are well known to provide inaccurate information.

By contrast, Tillerson was insistent that President Assad was behind the recent chemical attack.

Lavrov nevertheless pledged that the gap between the US and Russia isn’t as large as many would assume, stating that,
Even though we have a large number of artificially created problems…we are open to having dialogue with the US in many different areas and to work together…in areas that will serve both our countries”.

In respect of Assad himself, Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s view that a single individual is not the question but rather, that Syria must learn to once again function in a manner that is peaceful, secular and non-discriminatory to any religious or ethnic minorities.

For his part, Tillerson said that at this time, the evidence sufficient to prove Assad has engaged in war crimes is not sufficient.

Lavrov emphasised the need to cooperate on implementing the 2015 Minsk agreement in respect of Donbass and the relationship of Donetsk and Lugansk to Kiev and also stated that using a political process to remove nuclear weapons from North Korea was a goal of both parties.

Throughout the press conference Lavrov appeared composed, serious and calm. Tillerson while diplomatic appeared somewhat worn out from the experience.

Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons attack

12 April, 2017

Moscow has vetoed a draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council which demands that Damascus grant full access to UN inspectors at any military site in Syria, under the threat of military action.
The document was drafted by the US, the UK and France amid an international crisis over the alleged use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4.

The US has already declared the Syrian government guilty of the alleged sarin gas attack and retaliated with a barrage of cruise missiles targeting a Syrian airbase, from which, Washington claimed, the attack was launched.

Moscow criticized the US for its military action, calling it rushed, illegal and potentially playing into the hands of terrorists.

Washington accused Russia of complicity in the alleged crime and demanded that it stop supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Unlike the previous draft resolution on the alleged incident, the fresh document did not lay the blame for it on Damascus. It also referred to the incident as the “reported use of chemical weapons” rather than stating that such use did take place as a fact.

However, the draft leaned heavily on the Syrian government in terms of demands to submit to an investigation of the incident.

It said inspectors chosen by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must be given prompt and unrestricted access to “any and all sites” they choose, provided with flight plans and logs they request, and given the names of military officers “in command of any aircraft” they probe.

Damascus would also have to “arrange meetings requested, including with generals or other officers, within no more than five days of the date on which such meeting is requested.”

In the event of non-compliance with the terms, Syria could be exposed to military action mandated by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The rebel forces controlling Khan Shaykhun were only asked to “provide delay-free and safe access” to the site of the reported incident.

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