US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attends a welcoming ceremony upon his arrival at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia April 11, 2017. Photograph: (Reuters)
Moscow said it was useless to give Russia an ultimatum between supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or allying with the West
The US position on Syria remains a mystery to Moscow and Washington's rhetoric tends to be primitive and loutish, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Wednesday.
Ryabkov's remarks were released minutes before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the highest level representative of the Trump administration to visit Russia, was due to start talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Reuters reports.
Ryabkov said that at the talks Russia expected to discuss no-fly zones in Syria, and that North Korea and Ukraine would also be on the agenda.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Lavrov on Wednesday that he wanted to use talks in Moscow to understand why Russia and Washington had sharp differences and find a way to bridge those differences.
Moscow said Wednesday, prior to the meeting, that it was useless to give Russia an ultimatum, in response to the United States' top diplomat urging it to stop supporting the Syrian government regime.
"It seems to me that everyone has already understood that it is useless to travel to us with ultimatums, it is simply counterproductive," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
It was uncertain whether Tillerson would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as it was not part of the agenda but the Kremlin had not ruled out the possibility.
Tillerson's Moscow visit made him the first senior American official to visit Russia since US President Donald Trump came to power.
In a statement published on the Department of State's website, Tillerson suggested Russia choose between supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an alliance with the West.
"Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia's interest, or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?" Tillerson said ahead of his trip to Moscow.
Since a suspected chemical attack on April 4 in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, the US has accused Russia of being morally responsible for the deaths of almost 100 Syrian civilians.
The US last week launched air strikes on a regime airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.