Tillerson: Russia 'failure allowed Syria chemical attack'

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Mr Tillerson is set to visit Moscow this week

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has criticised Russia, saying it had failed to prevent Syria from carrying out a chemical attack on a rebel-held town.

Russia had agreed to ensure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles were destroyed – and its failure to do this enabled the attack, he said.

The US fired 59 missiles at a Syrian airbase after the alleged attack.

Syria has denied using any chemical agents, and Russia says the US gave no evidence Syria has chemical weapons.

Russia is the Syrian government’s main ally, and helped facilitate a 2013 agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The suspected chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun on Wednesday left 89 people dead.

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Speaking on CBS’s Face The Nation, Mr Tillerson said there was no evidence to suggest Russia was part of the alleged chemical attack.

However, “whether Russia was complicit here or whether they were simply incompetent or whether they got outwitted” by the Syrian government, they had “failed in their commitment to the international community”, he said.

Russia had agreed to “be the guarantor of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles… the result of their failure has led to the killing of more children and innocents,” Mr Tillerson added.

Mr Tillerson is set to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, this week in Moscow.

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Children were among those hurt in the suspected attack

The Russian government has denied that Syria carried out a chemical attack, saying that civilians on the ground were poisoned after Syrian planes struck a depot producing chemical weapons for rebels.

Western governments, rebel leaders and a weapons expert all criticised this claim, saying the evidence pointed to an attack by the Syrian government.

Following the suspected attack, US President Donald Trump launched air strikes against a Syrian government air base, and branded Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad a “dictator” who had “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians”.

The Syrian government called the strikes “foolish and irresponsible”, while Russia accused the US of “an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext”.

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