Trump meets with Russia's top diplomat

2017-05-10 18:02
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives for a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2017. (AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives for a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2017. (AFP)

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Washington - President Donald Trump welcomed Vladimir Putin's top diplomat to the White House on Wednesday, marking his highest level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since taking office.

The talks come one day after Trump fired the FBI director, who was overseeing an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived at the White House and entered from its exclusive West Executive entrance, out of range for reporters to ask questions.

Before that session, Lavrov stopped at the State Department to see Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the get-together was a chance for the two to "continue our dialogue" and "exchange of views" that they started in April in Moscow. During that trip, Tillerson said relations with Russia were at a low and needed to be rebuilt.

Stabilising Syria 

A Russian plan to stabilise Syria after more than six years of civil war was the most urgent foreign policy topic on the Trump-Lavrov agenda.

But their meeting will be impossible to separate from the Trump administration's unfolding political drama in Washington, where FBI and congressional investigations are looking into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin related to the 2016 election.

US intelligence agencies have asserted that Moscow meddled in the election to help Trump's chances of victory.

Putin asked Trump to meet with Lavrov when the two leaders spoke by phone last week, according to a person with knowledge of the call. The person insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the private conversation.

During his appearance with Tillerson, Lavrov feigned surprise when asked whether James Comey's firing as FBI director cast a shadow over the US-Russia talks.

"Was he fired? You're kidding. You're kidding," Lavrov told reporters sarcastically before waving his hand dismissively and leaving the room. Tillerson ignored questions about Trump and Comey.

White House warned 

Less than a month into Trump's presidency, he fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying Flynn misled senior administration officials about his pre-inauguration talks with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador in Washington.

In a Senate hearing on Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she warned Trump's White House in January that Flynn "essentially could be blackmailed" by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Kislyak.

Trump has said he has no ties to Russia and isn't aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian election interference. He called the various investigations a "hoax" driven by Democrats still bitter that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, was defeated in 2016.

But his hopes for a possible rapprochement with Moscow, so regularly repeated during the campaign, have been derailed. Ties soured further in April after the US blamed a Russian ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. The US president ordered that some 60 cruise missiles be fired at a Syrian air base in response.

After Tillerson visited Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, Trump said flatly, "Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all".


Read more on:    donal trump  |  us  |  russia

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