‘Productive’ 1st meeting: Lavrov & Tillerson discuss Syria & Ukraine, but not sanctions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his first meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was productive, stressing that Moscow is ready to work with Washington on all issues as soon as Donald Trump’s foreign policy team is fully formed.
Lavrov and Tillerson talked at a G20 summit in Germany. It was the pair’s first meeting since Tillerson became Secretary of State, and came as a possible Russia-US rapprochement is in the spotlight.
“As soon as the teams in the State Department and the relevant agencies are formed, we expressed readiness to establish contacts,” Lavrov told journalists at the G20 summit in Bonn, Germany.
During his meeting with Tillerson, the situations in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine was discussed, the FM said.
“On all those issues, our American colleagues said they’re interested in joining the efforts that are made to overcome those conflicts,” he stressed.
The sides “confirmed mutual interest, coinciding interests, first of all regarding the outright battle against terrorism and the political settlement in Syria,” as well as cooperation on other nations in the region “where terrorism took root,” Lavrov said.
According to Lavrov, Washington’s sanctions against Moscow were not discussed during the meeting.
Lavrov again called the decision by the Obama administration to put restrictions on Russia “abnormal.”
As for a possible meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, “the two presidents will meet when they decide that it’s the right time,” the FM said.
Lavrov also emphasized that current developments in Washington are US domestic affairs, in which Moscow has no interest in meddling.
"One should understand that we don't interfere in other nations' domestic affairs," he told reporters when asked if "turbulence" in the American capital has ramifications for US-Russia relations.
Tillerson described his meeting with Lavrov as “productive,” saying that a range of bilateral issues were discussed.
“The US will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people,” the secretary of state said in his brief statement.
“Where we don’t see eye to eye, the US will stand up for the interest and values of America and her allies,” he added.
Washington expects Moscow to “honor its commitments to the Minsk agreements and work to deescalate the violence in the Ukraine” as the two nations search for common ground, Tillerson said.
Earlier, the US State Department told reporters the upcoming conversation with Lavrov “obviously would be a very important one,” adding that Tillerson was likely to use the occasion to seek “ways for pragmatic and constructive cooperation in areas where our interests overlap.”
Areas of mutual interest might include “counter-ISIS [Islamic State] and counterterrorism” efforts, State Department officials said at a special briefing.
The officials also said that Tillerson would not soften Washington's stance on Ukraine, a crisis which remains largely unresolved. The secretary of state would “push for full implementation of the parties’, including Russia’s, commitments under the Minsk agreement for the Donbass.”
Ukraine and the issue of economic sanctions look like becoming a stumbling block for future dialogue between Moscow and Washington. President Donald Trump has claimed that Crimea – a region that was reunited with mainland Russia following a 2014 referendum – was “taken” by Moscow, prompting a measured but swift response from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Crimea is part of the Russian Federation,” Zakharova told reporters on Wednesday.
Lavrov's meeting with Tillerson came as US-Russia relations remain under particular scrutiny following the election of President Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to mend ties with Moscow.