Tillerson Says Destroying ISIS Still 'First Priority' In Syria

But his call was wrapped in kind words about the Syrian president and condemnation of the US strikes carried out on a Syrian airbase on Friday, in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians in a rebel-held area of Syria.

"If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments, to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons arsenal for good, and to get fully engaged with the United Nations peacekeeping process".

In the wide-ranging ABC interview, Tillerson also said the US has "no objective" to change North Korea's regime as Kim Jong Un continues to ramp up Pyongyang's nuclear program, and that there's no reason for the U.S.to lift sanctions placed on Russian Federation following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

McMaster said Russian leaders were supporting "a murderous regime" and their actions would dictate the future of U.S. Tillerson said at the time that "steps are underway" to form an worldwide coalition that would seek to remove al-Assad through some kind of negotiated settlement.

The U.S. military rained dozens of Tomahawk missiles down on an airfield in western Syria late Thursday, a response to the Middle East nation's chemical attack on Tuesday that killed 87 people.

On North Korea's nuclear capability, Tillerson said Kim Jong Un "has made significant advancements in delivery systems, and that is what concerns us the most".

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Pressed to clarify Sunday, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said the goals of fighting ISIS and ousting Assad were somewhat "simultaneous" and that the objective of the missile strikes were to send a "strong political message".

McMaster echoed Tillerson's comments in an interview on Fox News with Chris Wallace. "The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interests of the American people".

Russian Federation has backed Syria for much of the six-year conflict, and has used its veto power in the UN Security Council on several occasions to prevent action being taken against the Damascus government. "Gabbard should not be in Congress", the former Vermont governor tweeted.

Tillerson conceded that removing Assad from power could "ultimately" require greater pressure, including military action, from the USA or an worldwide coalition, but he said that isn't the preferred choice.

Russian Federation has consistently denied that Syrian forces used chemical weapons, insisting the incident at Khan Sheikhoun was caused by a hit on a rebel chemical weapons plant, a claim dismissed by the West. He has also said there was no role for Assad in Syria's future. Airwars, a non-profit monitoring airstrikes in the war against the Islamic State group, noted that USA -led attacks typically focus on areas away from Russian activity, though ending the co-operation represents "a worrying development".

"We are waiting for the American administration to reveal its complete vision for the Syrian file", said prominent opposition politician George Sabra.

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