"I look forward to a very open, candid, frank exchange so that we can better define the U.S".
Tillerson met Putin in the Kremlin after talking to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for about three hours. Russian Federation is a Syrian ally and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year long civil war, while the U.S. has long advocated for the Syrian dictator's ouster. Early expectations of an easy rapport between the Trump administration and Russian Federation have crashed into reality as the two countries have traded escalating accusations over what happened last week in a chemical attack in Syria.
As their envoys gathered in Moscow, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were voicing protests of their own.
Putin added that Syria had given up its chemical weapons stocks, Reuters reported.
The U.S. and other countries have alleged that the chemical strike on Syria's Idlib Province that killed more than 80 civilians was carried out by the Syrian regime.
Still, Lavrov sought to put a positive spin on the talks with Tillerson, saying they helped improve mutual understanding.
USA criminal investigators and members of both congressional intelligence committees are studying last year's Russian hacking into computers at Democratic Party headquarters and the eventual release of emails by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks that were seen as embarrassing Trump's challenger for the presidency, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Putin quickly invited the Syrian and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow on Friday, the day after Tillerson departs. In opening remarks in front of reporters, Lavrov greeted Tillerson with unusually icy remarks, denouncing the missile strike on Syria as illegal and accusing Washington of behaving unpredictably. Russian Federation is Syria's most powerful ally.
Some U.S. officials have questioned whether Russian Federation knew about the attack or was complicit in some way, though no intercepted communications have yet supported that suspicion. Tillerson said that the two countries agreed to set up a working group to stabilize their relationship and solve smaller issues.
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Later the top Russian and USA diplomats are expected to hold a news conference.
Until the chemical attack, the Trump administration had sought to step back from the U.S. position that Assad should leave power.
During his visit - the first to Moscow by a senior Trump administration official - Tillerson was expected to challenge Russian Federation to distance itself from Assad and his Iranian backers, an idea that the Kremlin dismissed as "absurd".
Prime Minister Theresa May says she believes it is "highly likely" Mr Assad's forces were behind the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun, adding that "it is only the regime that has the capability to make such an attack".
"To Assad and the Syrian government: you have no friends in the world after your awful actions", Haley said.
In a move that slightly softened the atmosphere, Lavrov said Putin had agreed to restore a U.S. -Russia air safety agreement covering Syria which Moscow suspended in retaliation for the U.S. missile strikes.
Lavrov blasted US claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference.