Putin & Trump could have met many times at G20, gone to toilet together – Lavrov
In an exclusive interview with NBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it was possible that the two leaders “met even much more than just three times,” but stressed that such meetings wouldn’t have been significant – and certainly weren’t secretive.
He joked that the two could have gone “to the toilet together,” and used the analogy of children meeting other children at kindergarten.
“When you are brought by your parents to a kindergarten, do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a classroom?” he asked.
“I remember when I was in that position, I did spend five or ten minutes in the kindergarten before they brought us to the classroom.”
Lavrov said that the third encounter with Trump at the G20 summit, which has been reported by the mainstream media as a “secret meeting,” was merely an unscheduled encounter.
“After the dinner was over… I was not there… President Trump apparently went to pick up his wife and spent some minutes with President Putin… so what?” he said, echoing the White House’s account of the encounter.
"They did shake hands, which was now listed as a third meeting, and I don't know about the men's room," he joked.
Lavrov mentioned the difficulty of holding a so-called secretive meeting at a dinner which was attended by "some hundred persons, not to mention waiters, not to mention assistants..."
When asked about claims that Trump revealed US intelligence secrets to Lavrov at the Oval Office in May, the Russian foreign minister said those reports were false.
"He was accused of telling me a secret about something which was discovered by special services and which relate to the ability of terrorists to manipulate with smartphones, notebooks, the way which would allow the explosive to be placed in those devices. He just mentioned that terrorists have become very inventive and creative...
"But this very statement was made public either by the FBI or CIA about a month before I entered the Oval Office. And it was not only announced publicly, it was the reason why passengers from some countries in the Middle East were officially, legally, prohibited to carry these kinds of devices on board planes.
"So when this was cited as secret, top secret, revealed to me by President Trump, I really did not believe that serious people could make this kind of allegation."
As for Russia's perceptions of the US president, Lavrov said "we receive President Trump for what he is saying publicly."
He added that Moscow has no reason to doubt Trump's stated goal of wanting to "promote the interest of the United States, the interest of making this world safer, together with Russia, on the basis of our cooperation, on the basis of the balance of interest."
Shifting the focus to Syria, Lavrov said that America’s presence in the war-torn country is illegitimate, and accused CIA Director Mike Pompeo of having “double standards” regarding the establishment of military bases in the country.
Lavrov specifically referenced Pompeo’s Thursday statement at the Aspen Security Forum, during which the CIA director criticized Russia’s presence in Syria and the establishment of military bases on the Mediterranean coast.
“Something was wrong with double standards,” Lavrov said, citing reports of 10 US bases built in Syria, “not to mention hundreds of military bases of the United States all over the world and all around Russia."
Regarding North Korea, Lavrov said that Moscow would not support regime change in Pyongyang.
“We do not believe in regime change anywhere,” he said.
He went on to stress that Russian intelligence determined earlier this month that Pyongyang’s July 4 missile launch was not an intercontinental weapon, despite US officials stating otherwise.
“Our objective data we received from our radars located just on the border with North Korea and according to that data it is not an intercontinental missile,” he said.
Lavrov went on to state that he “cannot say we are not considering a threat what is going [on] on the Korean Peninsula, because of what North Korea is doing in gross violation of the Security Council resolutions.”
He added that he does not understand the point of portraying Moscow as “appeasing” North Korea and “acquiescing with what they have been doing.”
However, he said that Russia would not support United Nations Security Council Resolutions which are “designed to completely suffocate the North Korean economy,” adding the UN could not stop nuclear programs “at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives of North Koreans.”