Moscow, Washington, Beirut- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who landed on Tuesday in Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, brought back the fate of Bashar Assad to the forefront of discussions on the country’s civil war.
Tillerson carries with him a unified letter from the G7 foreign ministers who met in the Italian city of Lucca on Tuesday to condemn the Russian support for Assad.
Before boarding the plane for the Russian capital, Tillerson told reporters: “I think it’s also worth thinking about, Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah.”
He added: “Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia’s interests? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries?”
For its part, Moscow welcomed Tillerson with accusations launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said: “The US is planning to launch new missile strikes on Syria.”
The Russian president added: “We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared … in other parts of Syria including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”
But, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis pledged on Tuesday during a press conference that the Syrian regime would “pay a very, very stiff price” if it reuses chemical weapons, adding there is no doubt the regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself.
In the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer said: “I don’t see a peaceful, stable Syria in the future that has Assad in charge. I don’t see a future Syria that has (Assad) as the leader of that government.”
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime surprisingly started raising the Russian flag in some airports, including al-Dumayr Airport, to prevent more US attacks, following the attack on the Shayrat air base last week.