Rex Tillerson heading to Moscow

The upcoming meeting between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has taken on an extra level of importance since the US missile launch against a Syrian airbase.

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A chemical weapons attack in Syria last Tuesday prompted US President Donald Trump to order the missile attack on an airbase that the US believe Syria used to launch the chemical weapons attack.

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Prior to the attack, which killed nearly 90 people, a senior State Department official said Tilllerson’s meetings in Moscow on Wednesday would stress his core message that the US is willing to work with Russia in areas of practical co-operation that benefit Americans.

He will be looking for a crack in the door that might allow him to explore progress in the relationship “so that we could co-operate,” the officials said, who spoke with reporters on a conference call. But they also said the US remained “committed to hold Russia accountable when it violates international norms”.

It seems likely that the events in Syria over the past week mean Tillerson might be rewriting his talking points. The latter goal of holding Russia accountable now looks more important than the former issue of finding ways to patch up tattered relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the US missile strike as a violation of international law and an “aggression against a sovereign country”, according to state media. Moscow also rejected the US allegations that the Syrian military was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

Tillerson is also likely to discuss the alleged interference by Russia in the US elections, the State Department said.