Russia failed in its responsibility in Syria: Tillerson

Russia failed in its responsibility in Syria: Tillerson

Russia failed in its responsibility in Syria: Tillerson
Russia, one of the key supporters of the Assad regime in Syria, has "failed in its responsibility" to deliver on a 2013 commitment to secure Syria's chemical weapons, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today ahead of his visit to Moscow next week. Tillerson's visit, the first trip to Russia by a Trump administration official aimed at establishing closer ties with the former Cold War foe, was announced after the US launched cruise missiles against an air base in Syria in retaliation to the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun in rebel-held Idlib province.

"Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility. Either Russia has been complicit or either Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at Palm Beach in Florida after the US launched cruise missiles against a Syrian air base.

Tillerson told reporters that the US has a very "high level of confidence" that the chemical attacks which killed at least 86 people, including 27 children, were carried out under the direction of Bashar Al Assad's regime.

"We have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas," he said. "It is also clear previous agreements that had been entered into pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2118, as well as NXA agreements that the Syrian government themselves accepted back in 2013 whereby they would surrender their chemical weapons under the supervision of the Russian government and the US and the Russian government entered into agreements whereby Russia would locate these weapons, secure these weapons and destroy these weapons," he said.

"They would act as the guarantor that these weapons would no longer be present in Syria. Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013," he said.

He said the US expects wider global support, except from the Assad regime and Russia, to its decision to carry out missile strikes against the Syrian chemical weapons attack.

"My expectation is that all of those parties with the exception of Bashar al-Assad and perhaps Russia, I think are going to applaud this particular action," Tillerson told reporters. Tillerson said it is important to recognise that Assad has continued to use chemical weapons in these attacks with no response from the international community.

"He is normalising the use of chemical weapons, which may then be adopted by others. Therefore, it's important that some action be taken on behalf of the international community to make clear that these chemical weapons continue to be a violation of international norms," he said.

Tillerson said overall the situation in Syria is one where Trump Administration's approach and policy is first to defeat ISIS. "By defeating ISIS, we remove one of the disruptive elements in Syria that exists today," he said.

To defeat ISIS is to begin to stabilise areas of Syria, stabilise areas in the south of Syria, stabilise areas around Raqqa through ceasefire agreements between the Syrian regime forces and opposition forces, stabilise those areas, begin to restore some normalcy to them, restore them to local governments," the Secretary of State said. He said there are local leaders who are ready to return to govern these areas.

"They will be part of the liberation effort to develop the local security forces, law enforcement, police force, and then use other forces to create outer perimeters of security so that areas like Raqqa, areas in the south can begin to provide a secure environment so refugees can begin to go home and begin the rebuilding process," Tillerson said.

"In the midst of that through the Geneva process, we will start a political process to resolve Syria's future in terms of its governance structure and that ultimately in our view will lead to a resolution of Basher al Assad's departure," Tillerson said.