As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Russia, Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the U.S. is planning chemical weapons attacks in Damascus in an attempt to frame Bashar al Assad.
The Putin remarks follow an ultimatum issued by Tillerson that Russia must choose between Assad and the U.S., the AP reports:
“We cannot let this happen again,” the secretary of state said.
“We want to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people. Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role,” Tillerson added in remarks to reporters. “Or Russia can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests longer term.”
Since the U.S. launched airstrikes against Assad’s forces in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians last week, Trump administration officials have offered mixed messages about whether Washington believes Assad definitely must surrender power and when. Tillerson said it was clear the U.S. saw no role for Assad in Syria’s future, given that he had lost legitimacy.
“It is clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end,” he said. “But the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside of a unified Syria.”
“That’s why we are not presupposing how that occurs,” Tillerson added.
Watch a report from CBS This Morning: