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Tillerson speaks with Russian counterpart after blaming Moscow for Syria's chemical weapons use

Tillerson speaks with Russian counterpart after blaming Moscow for Syria's chemical weapons use
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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonFormer WH adviser: Trump will want to rejoin Paris climate pact by 2020 Why the US should lead on protecting Rohingya Muslims 'Bolivarian Diaspora' can no longer be ignored MORE spoke with his Russian counterpart by phone on Wednesday, one day after Tillerson blamed Russia for failing to clamp down on the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons. 

That call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, touched on Syria as well as North Korea and Ukraine.

The statement made no reference to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, but instead said that Tillerson emphasized Russia's responsibility in ensuring the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad plays a role in the United Nations-backed process for resolving the years-long civil war in Syria.

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Speaking at a conference in Paris on Tuesday, Tillerson said that Russia "bears responsibility" for a recent chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs that reportedly left nearly 20 civilians dead. 

“Russia’s failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution to the overall crisis,” he said.

Tillerson also discussed a ministerial meeting in Canada last week that focused on the latest diplomatic push to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

That meeting included representatives from the so-called United Nations Sending States that supported South Korea in the Korean War. Russia and China, which are both considered key players in the push to curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, were not invited to that gathering.

The State Department said Tillerson also pushed Russia during Wednesday's call to swiftly implement its commitments under the Minsk Agreements, which seek to halt fighting between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Tillerson said last month that the ongoing fighting in Ukraine is the issue that most prominently "stands in the way" of repairing ties between Washington and Moscow.