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Lavrov-Tillerson meeting round-up

Sergey Lavrov says attempts to raise tensions between Moscow and Washington are 'short-sighted'

MOSCOW, April 12. /TASS/. Talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson turned out to be frank and extensive, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following their meeting.

"We held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, we have just had a long, two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin," he said. "The talks turned out to be frank and extensive, we covered the entire range of key issues concerning our bilateral relations and cooperation on the global level," the Russian top diplomat added.

"We have agreed that the current stage in our relations regarding the global agenda is not calm, to say the least," Lavrov said.

"We have numerous problems, including those, which were left as action-delayed mines from the previous US administration, which was the (ex-President Barack) Obama administration," Lavrov said.

"We are being realistic and realize that in order to overcome such obstacles we will need to imply weighty efforts on condition that our US colleagues will meet them," Lavrov said adding that it was a fact, reiterated by Russian President Putin on Wednesday.

"I am confident that the long hours Rex Tillerson and I spent today eye to eye with each other and together with the Russian president, were not in vain," Lavrov said. "We now understand each other better. I hope that these contacts will continue, involving not only us but also our personnel and personnel of other Russian and US state bodies," Lavrov added.

"As for my impression from the talks, taking into account all the current issues, both objective and artificial, the possibilities for cooperation remain open," Lavrov said. "Russia is ready for that, ready for dialogue with the US in various spheres, and not only for dialogue but also for joint activities in both countries’ interest. Of course, we expect the United States to respond in kind."

Russia-US ties

Attempts to prevent Moscow and Washington from cooperating and raise tensions are short-sighted, Lavrov said.

"We see attempts being made to prevent us from cooperating and even raise tensions," he noted.

"We believe that this approach is short-sighted, particularly because history has shown that when Moscow and Washington cooperate, not only our peoples but the whole world benefits from it," the Russian top diplomat added.

Russia and the United States should maintain communications both at a diplomatic and military level, Tillerson said.

"We agree there needs to be more senior level of communication between our two countries both at a diplomatic and military level," Tillerson said.

"We agreed to establish a working group to address smaller issues and make progress towards stabilizing the relationship so that we can then address more serious problems," Tillerson said.

Moscow and Washington have decided to appoint special representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State to assess the current bilateral issues, Lavrov said. 

"We have agreed to appoint special representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State who would in an unemotional manner thoroughly assess the differences in our bilateral relations that emerged in the past years, particularly during Barack Obama’s presidency," the Russian top diplomat said.

War on terror in Russia-US focus

 Russia and the United States confirm that both nations are focused on an uncompromising war on terror.

"That is a theme that our president discussed during their several phone conversations, including the phone talk overnight to April 4, when Donald Trump called Vladimir Putin to offer his condolences over a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg’s metro system," Lavrov said.

Talks on disarmament

Russia and the United States expect to resume talks on disarmament, Lavrov said. 

"We have pointed to the fact that both Russia and the United States are concerned over the situation concerning political and military security on the regional and global level," he said.

"We have synchronized our watches concerning the implementation of bilateral agreements on strategic stability and arms reduction. We agreed to overcome the gap in these processes which emerged due to the change of the White House team. We expect that our contacts on strategic stability and arms reduction will be resumed and will be held in a business-like manner so that we could implement all our decisions," the Russian top diplomat added.

Memorandum on flight safety over Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his readiness to restore the suspended Memorandum on preventing incidents and ensuring flights safety during operations in Syria, Lavrov said. 

"The Memorandum on preventing incidents and ensuring flights safety during operations in Syria (earlier signed with the United States) was suspended unilateraly by Russia," he said. 

"Today, the Russian president expressed our readiness to return to its (memorandum’s) implementation under the condition that there would be a clear-cut confirmation of the initial purpose of the US-led Air Force Coalition and the Russian Aerospace Forces in the fight against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (both organizations outlawed in Russia)," Lavrov said.

The Memorandum of October 2015 contains a number of rules and restrictions which aim at preventing dangerous encounters between the Russian and US warplanes. In accordance with the document, the two countries set up 24-hour communications channels and outlined a mechanism for cooperation, particularly stipulating mutual assistance in crisis situations.

The Pentagon said earlier that the memorandum did not envisage providing Moscow with information about targets in Syria.

The memorandum, which was in effect for less than two years, was eventually suspended on April 7 by Russia after the US Navy delivered a missile strike on an air base in the Syrian province of Homs.

Stable Syria

Rex Tillerson said both the United States and Russia believe in a unified and stable Syria and want to deny a safe haven to terrorists.

"We both believe in a unified and stable Syria and we agree we want to deny a safe haven to terrorists who want to attack both of our countries," Tillerson said.

Washington has no evidence that Russia was involved in the suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib. "We have no firm information to indicate that there was any involvement by Russian forces into this attack," he said. "What we do know and we have very firm and high confidence in our conclusions that the attack was planned and carried out by the regime forces at the direction of Bashar al-Assad," Tillerson added.

Lavrov stressed that "leaving aside the fight against terrorism in Syria and in the region on the whole, we (Russia and the United States) share a common interest in achieving a political settlement in the most complicated Syrian conflict."

"In the course of recent years, Russia and the United States have been leading international efforts to find a compromise and unite all participants, both within the Syrian conflict and within foreign members under the UN auspices," he said. "Today we have agreed to carry on with the bilateral interaction in order to assist and boost the multilateral process."

Lavrov said stances of Russia, the US still differ over alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. "This is one of the issues that Russia and the United States view differently," he said.

Delay in investigation of the alleged chemical incident in Syria’s Idlib on April 4 will demonstrate that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is not interested in the truth, the Russian top diplomat said. 

Both Syrian government and Russian military repeatedly handed evidence to the OPCW that chemical weapons had not been used in Syria, he said.

"Nonetheless, research into the evidence, provided in a material form, has been somehow dragged out," he said. "I do not want to pin blame on somebody, but we insist on an impartial investigation into what happened on April 4."

Assad's fate

Lavrov stressed Russia is putting a stake neither on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nor on anybody else in Syria.

"We are putting a stake on nobody, neither on president Assad nor on anybody else," he said.

According to Lavrov, the Syrians "should sit down and come to terms, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution." "It should be an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue," the Russian top diplomat stressed.

Lavrov went on to say that in order to settle the situation, there is a need "to agree on the future state structure of Syria and ensure its secular essence rather than remove any individuals from the political stage." "All ethnic and religious groups should feel protected and be represented in state agencies," the Russian foreign minister added.

He also said that if such consensus was reached, which required a new constitution to be drawn up, "then it will be easier to decide the future of various politicians while the state and the people will not have to face any tragic consequences.".

Tillerson stressed Bashar al-Assad should step down in an orderly way and it will take time.

"We did discuss at length the future role of Assad whether it be in the future political process or not," Tillerson said. "Clearly our view is that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. They have again brought this on themselves with their conduct through the war in these past few years."

"We do think it’s important that Assad’s departure is done in an orderly way," he said.

"Our view is that Russia as the closest ally in the conflict perhaps has the best means of helping Assad recognize this reality," he said. "We do think it’s important that Assad’s departure is done in an orderly way so that certain interests and constituencies that he represents feel that they have been represented at the negotiating table for a political solution. How that occurs? We leave that to the process going forward."

"It will take a pace of its own," Tillerson said. "But the final outcome in our view does not provide a role for Assad or for the Assad family in the future governments of Syria. We do not think international community will accept that, we do not think the world will accept that."

Minsk deal on Ukraine

Moscow can see Washington’s readiness to continue contacts in order to implement the Minsk agreements, Lavrov said. 

According to Lavrov, during the talks, the Ukrainian crisis was discussed. "We share a common position that the 2015 Minsk agreements should be implemented," he said.

"We remember that during Obama’s presidency a channel for bilateral consultations was set up, besides, the Normandy Quartet (comprising Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) was established," he said. "We can see that the new US administration is interested in contacts on this issue in order to facilitate the search for practical ways to fully implement the Minsk agreements," the Russian top diplomat said.

"We are ready to welcome such attempts," the Russian top diplomat added.

Tillerson added "we did discuss no change in the status of sanctions that have been in place with Russia as a result of certain actions in Ukraine."

North Korea denuclearization

Tillerson said Washington and Moscow agree that North Korea has to be denuclearized.

"We agree that North Korean has to be denuclearized," Tillerson said.

Сonference on Afghanistan

Russia expects the United States to take part in the Moscow conference on Afghanistan due on April, Lavrov said. 

"Afghanistan is also an important issue," he said. "As you may know, in the past few years we have been using various formats to support the attempts to settle the situation in Afghanistan."

"Another attempt will be made in Moscow on April 14, when a meeting of the so-called Moscow format, involving Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, including the Central Asian states, will be held. The United States has been invited, too," Lavrov noted. "We expect that the US will participate in one way or another.".


Russia is set to closely cooperate with the United States against cybercrimes, Lavrov said.

"We are interested in close cooperation in the fight against crimes in cyberspace," he said.