Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Russian counterparty, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at a G20 summit in Germany in the pair’s first meeting since Tillerson became secretary of state, and comes as a possible Russia-US rapprochement is in the spotlight. Moscow and Washington have much to discuss, Lavrov told Tillerson at their first meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Thursday.
"Mostly, it includes issues addressed by the two presidents during their phone conversation. I think that we could identify parameters of our future cooperation on each of those topics," he stated.
More importantly, Lavrov once again focused on current developments in Washington in which Trump administration links to Russia are under the spotlight, and said that these are US domestic affairs, in which Moscow has no interest in meddling.
"You should know we do not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries," Lavrov told reporters when asked if "turbulence" in the American capital has ramifications for US-Russia relations.
He spoke days after U.S. President Donald Trump asked for the resignation of his key national security adviser Michael Flynn amid questions about his conversations with Russian officials. He added the two countries had "plenty of issues" to discuss."
Earlier comments from the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested that Syria and sensitive bilateral issues would be discussed at the meeting, RT reported.
The US State Department told reporters the upcoming conversation with Lavrov “obviously will be a very important one,” adding that Tillerson is 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.
It will be the first time Lavrov has met the newly-appointed Tillerson. It comes as US-Russia relations are under particular scrutiny following the election of President Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to mend ties with Moscow.