US: 'We can't have this relationship with Russia' amid Syria crisis

Rex Tillerson admitted that US-Russian ties were at a "low point"

US: 'We can't have this relationship with Russia' amid Syria crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia. | Image: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson says there is a "low level of trust" between Washington and Moscow and they "cannot have this sort of relationship".

He gave his frank assessment following two hours of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

Relations between the two powers have become strained over the Syrian crisis amid Moscow's continued support for President Bashar al Assad's regime.

Mr Tillerson, who has also had talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, admitted that US-Russian ties were at a "low point".

He said there was a "low level of trust" between the nations and "the world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship".

He also reiterated America's claim that Syrian government forces "planned, directed and executed" a chemical attack on civilians, which killed more than 80 people.

Mr Tillerson also alleged the Syrian regime has used weapons such as chlorine bombs more than 50 times in the past.

He said that over time as more evidence is collated, the threshold necessary to charge Mr Assad with war crimes may be reached.

Mr Tillerson repeated the US administration's belief that "the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end".

But Mr Lavrov warned against an international effort to oust Mr Assad from power, saying his removal would help Islamic State.

Syria and Russia have both denied that Assad's forces carried out the toxic gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun last week. Moscow has blamed Syrian rebels.

UK analysis of samples from the scene has detected sarin or a sarin-like substance.

Russia believes there is no need for a UN Security Council resolution on the attack until the UN chemical weapons watchdog has completed an investigation.

Following the 4 April atrocity, President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian regime airbase from where the chemical attack was allegedly launched.

Speaking alongside Mr Tillerson at a news conference, Mr Lavrov said relations between the two nations "are not the most calm" and some issues were "time bombs" inherited from the Obama administration.

But Mr Lavrov said Moscow and Washington have agreed to continue cooperating to try to find a political solution for Syria.

The Russian diplomat claimed some progress was made on the crisis in the war-ravaged country and a working group would be set up to examine the poor state of US-Russia relations.

The pair also found time to discuss other crises including US tensions with North Korea, and the Ukraine conflict.

The Putin-Tillerson meeting was believed to be the first between the Russian President and a top member of Mr

Trump's administration since the US businessman took office in January.

It is not the first time Mr Putin and Mr Tillerson have had talks.

The Russian leader has previously met the American when he was head of US oil giant ExxonMobil.

Additional reporting from IRN