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US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had some harsh words for Russia ahead of his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow this week.

Speaking from the Italian city of Lucca, where the G-7 summit was underway, Mr Tillerson said Russia has aligned itself with “an unreliable partner” in Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as he ratcheted up criticism of Moscow and urged it to realign itself with the US.

Mr Tillerson said Russia has aligned itself with the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah and asked “is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia’s interests?” He also urged Russia to realign itself with the US, other allies in the West and those in the Middle East that are working to resolve the Syrian crisis.

The statements come a week after a suspected gas attack killed more than 80 people in the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun and prompted the US to launch missiles on Shayrat air base.

While the US received statements of support from Western allies for its response, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said last week that the strikes had “completely ruined relations” between the US and Russia and that the two countries were now “on the verge of a military clash”.

Mr Tillerson also said on Tuesday that the chemical attack showed that Russia had failed to uphold agreements it entered into under multiple UN security council resolutions “that stipulated Russia as a guarantor of a Syria free of chemical weapons”. He noted that stockpiles and the use of chemical weapons showed that Russia had failed in its responsibility.

“It is unclear whether Russia failed to take this obligation seriously or Russia has been incompetent but this distinction doesn’t much matter to the dead,” he said. “We can’t let this happen again”.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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