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U.S. Ready to Discuss Syrian No-Fly Zones With Russia, Secretary Tillerson Says

The secretary of state said Wednesday that U.S.-Russian tension over Syria would be a topic of talks between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20.
Image: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the State Department in Washington
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report ceremony at the State Department in Washington on June 27, 2017.Yuri Gripas / Reuters file

The United States is willing to work with Russia to establish no-fly zones and other measures to stabilize Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday.

In a statement released as he prepared to depart for a summit meeting of the Group of 20 major economies, Tillerson said the volatile situation in Syria would be a topic of discussion between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his wife, Melania, arrived Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, ahead of the G-20 gathering, which begins Friday in Hamburg, Germany.

Related: Trump Faces 'Uncomfortable Conversations' With World Leaders at G-20 Summit

"The United States and Russia certainly have unresolved differences on a number of issues," Tillerson acknowledged, but "if our two countries work together to establish stability on the ground, it will lay a foundation for progress on the settlement of Syria's political future."

Image: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.AFP-Getty Images; AP

The United States and Russia are nominal allies in the push to defeat ISIS in Syria, but they have clashed numerous times over Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom the United States has denounced for using chemical weapons and other abuses.

"Russia, as a guarantor of the Assad regime and an early entrant into the Syrian conflict, has a responsibility to ensure that the needs of the Syrian people are met and that no faction in Syria illegitimately re-takes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS' or other terrorist groups' control," Tillerson said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, Tillerson noted that the State Department has characterized the U.S.-Russian relationship as "at a very low point," but he added: "We have been engaged with Russia for some time now to identify areas [where] we should have mutual interest. Syria is certainly one that is a very complex situation."

Tillerson said it was too early to predict Russia's take, but he said, "This is where we've begun an effort to rebuild confidence between ourselves and Russia at the military level but also the diplomatic level."