US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, April 12, said the relations between the US and Russian Federation were "at a low point" and the two countries remained divided on a range of issues, including Syria.
Both Syria and Russian Federation have denied that forces loyal to the Assad regime carried out the toxic gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April.
Trump's relations with Russian Federation are also a domestic issue, as US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of using computer hacking to intervene in the election to help Trump win.
Trump indicated early on that human rights would have no role in his foreign policy, and in particular that rights would have no role in the USA relationship with Russian Federation. Tillerson conceded the two world powers had "sharp differences" that have obstructed cooperation but voiced optimism that their talks could narrow those differences. "The U.S. would have to take the field itself, and risk direct confrontation with the Russians and Iranians-highly unlikely", he said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the United States is not trying to get involved in Syria's civil war, but the US would hit Syrian government targets again if Assad used chemical weapons again.
The decision by the United States to strike Assad's air base broke with its stated mission under Operation Inherent Resolve that us and coalition forces are only in Syria to defeat the Islamic State there. But Tillerson repeated the administration's new belief that "the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end".
"It wasn't just us - it's the entire global community holding the Assad regime and its sponsors responsible for the chemical attack and indiscriminate mass murders". And he suggested that possible war crimes charges could be levied against the Syrian leader.
The three ministers also discussed the beefing up of USA forces on Jordan's border with Syria.
The civil war is separate from the US-led effort against the Islamic State group in the north of the country. Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasized that the participants warned that any unilateral action by the U.S.is unacceptable.More news: Wilson scores in OT as Caps survive scare to beat Leafs
In Russia's view, the probe conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be widened to include experts from many nations, he said.
Lavrov said both countries should work together and noted that Moscow does "not consider any closed alliances and misalliances productive". The diplomats know each other well from Tillerson's days as Exxon Mobil CEO.
Tillerson is on a thus-far-futile mission to persuade Putin to abandon support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Kremlin had previously declined to confirm Putin would meet Tillerson, reflecting the renewed tensions.
Trump and others have indeed threatened similar action.
U.S. officials have suggested Russian forces may have colluded in the latest atrocity blamed on Assad's regime, and it remained unclear if Tillerson will be invited to meet Putin. "Are we going to get involved with Syria?".
"We have just had a long, two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin", Lavrov said.
Trump and NATO's secretary general shared a chuckle when the US president told reporters he "asked about" whether members who have failed to contribute 2 percent of their GDP to the alliance will pay back those funds. But any expectations of an easy rapport have crashed into reality as the two countries trade escalating accusations over what happened last week in rebel-held territory in northern Syria.
"Frankly, Putin is backing a person that is truly an evil person", Trump said. "And so we are mindful of the seriousness of that particular interference in our elections, and I'm sure that Russian Federation is mindful of it as well", Tillerson said.