US warns Russia about preparations by Syria for chemical attack

US warns Russia about preparations by Syria for chemical attack

Hours before the White House issued a warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad against launching another chemical assault, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave the same message to Russia, The Daily Beast has learned.

According to a knowledgeable senior administration official, Tillerson warned his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a telephone conversation: the U.S. sees that Russia and Syria may be prepping for another chemical weapons attack; and that there will be consequences if Assad follows through with it.

“Our main aim is to make sure nothing happens,” the official told The Daily Beast.

Lavrov told Tillerson that nothing will happen—“as always,” the official noted.

The Russian foreign ministry emphasized a different aspect of Tillerson’s call.

In a statement issued Monday summarizing the conversation between the two chief diplomats, Moscow said Lavrov urged Tillerson to prevent “provocations” by the U.S. and its allies against “Syrian government forces carrying out operations against terrorists.” 

According to the Russian foreign ministry, the agenda for the call was to discuss implementing the ceasefire plan that Russia, Turkey and Iran recently negotiated in Kazakhstan.

Hours after the Tillerson-Lavrov call, press secretary Sean Spicer’s own missive said vaguely that Assad and his military would “pay a heavy price” for any “mass murder attack using chemical weapons.” Spicer conspicuously did not mention Russia in his statement.

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