Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has welcomed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow for the start of talks on a wide range of issues, said to include: counter-terrorism, Ukraine/Donbass, North Korea and perhaps most urgently, Syria.
In an opening meeting, Sergey Lavrov clarified Russia’s ‘consistent’ position which had been relayed numerous times, but said that he has many questions for the US side.
Lavrov said that it was important for Russia to understand America’s intentions in foreign policy and that apart from the troubling words coming out of Washington, Moscow also wants to clarify the ‘troubling actions’ in Syria. He stressed that is is fundamental not to let these actions happen again in the future. The ‘troubling actions’ remark was ostensibly referring to the US missile strike on Syria, something Russia clearly does not want repeated.
Lavrov also made mention of the fact that Rex Tilleron’s state department team is still not fully in place, something which often makes communications difficult. The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that Russia’s policy is consistent and influenced by international law
Lavrov ended saying that he would hope the meetings to be held today, will clarify American intentions.
A decidedly un-animated Rex Tillerson responded by saying ‘our lines of communication will always remain open’ and that the US intends to clarify areas of common interests and common objectives even where the two countries share a different approach.
Tillerson admitted that there are ‘areas of sharp difference’ between the two countries, but nevertheless looked forward to open candid and frank exchanges.
After private meetings, Lavrov and Tillerson are expected to address the press later today.
The subtext here is that America wants Russia to sign up to the ‘Assad must go’ campaign that Donald Trump’s White House recently signed up to. This is almost certainly not going to happen.
Russia’s Astana Peace Process is designed to enforce a broad ceasefire in Syria but one which allows the anti-terrorist coalition of the Syrian Arab Army, Russian military, Iranian military and allies like Hezbollah to continue to purge illegal Salifist terrorist groups from the country.
America somehow thinks that Russia can be convinced to ‘drop Assad’.
This approach by the US makes several fundamental errors. Russia doesn’t ‘own Assad’, he is not Russia’s to ‘give away’ to the US.
Russia has partnered with the Syrian government, under international law with an objective to pacify the country. This is Russia’s objective. Regime change does not enter into it and almost certainly never will
I expect that both sides will end up disappointed after today. The question remains; will Russia be able to convince America to back down militarily or will America continue sporadic illegal attacks on Syria?