Tillerson, Russia's Lavrov spoke about Syria poison gas attack

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks about the chemical weapons attack in Syria during a meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday about a poison gas attack in Syria that the United States has blamed on the Russia-backed Syrian government, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

The discussion came days before Tillerson goes to Moscow for talks with Russian officials expected to focus on the Syrian civil war and Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We sought the Russian analysis or readout of what they thought had happened” in the poison gas attack, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The attack killed at least 70 people, many of them children, but Moscow has blamed the deaths on gas leaking from a rebel chemical weapons depot after it was hit by Syrian government air strikes.

But Tillerson said at a brief news conference in Florida that there is no doubt Syria’s government is responsible for the attack.

Tillerson will meet with Lavrov in Moscow next week, and could meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin if he is invited to do so, the official said.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Alistair Bell