McMaster talks tough on Russian Federation amid Trump-Kremlin dealings

Assad Not Allowing UN to Monitor 'De-Escalation Zones' in Syria

Trump's meeting with Lavrov follows the Russian Federation visit of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow last month.

The talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were the highest-level public contact between Trump and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin since the Republican took office on January 20.

Damascus has said rebels should help drive jihadist groups out of the de-escalation zones, and sees so-called reconciliation agreements, which have involved the evacuation of rebels from besieged areas, as an alternative to peace talks.

Since March 2011, the Syrian conflict has caused more than 320,000 deaths and forced millions of refugees to flee. "The president further emphasised his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russian Federation", the White House said.

The primary objective of de-escalation is supposed to be to allow humanitarian aid to flow through to civilians.

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Washington has also voiced concerns over Iran's presence in the de-escalation zones.

Neither Washington, which backs the opposition, nor Moscow, a longtime ally of the Syrian regime, have managed to find a solution to the conflict.

Several ceasefires have been agreed on since Syria's conflict broke out, but they have failed to stem the fighting. Trump said during his election campaign that he sought closer ties with Russian Federation but tensions grew after United States air strikes against a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Assad.

Both countries have recently indicated that relations under Trump have never been so bad.

"Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters in Sochi that it was still early to speak about a U.S. participation in the de-escalation zones". "As to whether it will produce results or not, that depends on the implementation", the president said.

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The US State Department said that "on Syria, the secretary intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict".

President Trump's ongoing outreach to Kremlin officials will not prevent him from holding Russian Federation accountable for its "disruptive behavior" in the Middle East and elsewhere, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday.

After the talks, Lavrov and Tillerson set off for Alaska and a meeting of the Arctic Council, a forum for cooperation on the environment, oil and mining, shipping, fisheries and tourism.

Tillerson and Lavrov's meeting in Alaska comes 150 years after Washington purchased the USA state from Moscow.

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