(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)
MOSCOW — A senior Russian official lashed out at the U.S. minutes before a meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, calling recent American rhetoric “primitive and loutish.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.S’s position on Syria “remains a mystery” to Moscow, although he added that Russia expected to discuss the issue of no-fly zones in Syria at the talks.
Separately, Tillerson said talks with Lavrov represented “an important moment in the United States’ relationship with Russia.”
The Secretary of State said he hoped “to further clarify areas of sharp difference so we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing these differences might be.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not adopt Tillerson’s conciliatory tone, instead telling local media that the level of trust between the U.S. and Moscow had deteriorated further since Trump took office, according to Reuters.
On his way into the meeting with Tillerson, Lavrov said he believed the visit was timely as Russia saw what it called “troubling actions” last week in Syria, a reference to the U.S. bombing an air field in that country. American officials said the base had launched an alleged chemical weapons attack in north-western Syria which killed more than 80 civilians.
“We believe it fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future,” Lavrov added.
The high-stakes talks between Tillerson and Lavrov come less than a week after the U.S. launched the airstrikes, triggering a deterioration in ties between the two governments. The White House has accused Russia of trying to “cover up” Assad’s role in the attack.
Separately, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian newswires a meeting between Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin was not on the agenda as things stand but he did not rule it out.
“There is a certain possibility,” Peskov told state-run TASS agency. “You know the talks between the Russian foreign minister and the U.S. Secretary of State are currently underway, and if they later decide to report on the results of these talks to the head of state, we will let you know.”