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10:23 23 May
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Tillerson: Russia must choose between Assad and the US


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued an ultimatum to Russia on Tuesday: Side with the U.S. and likeminded countries on Syria, or embrace Iran, militant group Hezbollah and embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad, AP reported.

 

As he embarked on a trip to Moscow following urgent meetings in Italy with top diplomats, Tillerson said it was unclear whether Russia had failed to take seriously its obligation to rid Syria of chemical weapons, or had merely been incompetent. But he said the distinction "doesn't much matter to the dead."

 

"We cannot let this happen again," the secretary of state said.

 

"We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role," Tillerson added in remarks to reporters. "Or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia's interests longer term."

 

Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that it hoped for "productive talks." It said the outcome of the discussions is important not only for the Russia-U.S. relationship, but "for the overall atmosphere on the world stage."

 

Tillerson is traveling to Russia several days after a chemical attack in Syria and a U.S. air strike on a Syrian government base that Moscow on Tuesday dismissed as "an act of aggression." Moscow is a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad whom the United States blamed for the chemical attack.

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