Lavrov to meet Trump in Washington, Kremlin confirms

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Donald Trump in Washington during his two-day trip to the US, the Kremlin confirmed on Wednesday. The minister is currently holding talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

© Sputnik

Lavrov will discuss cooperation between the two countries in combating terrorism, as well as the issues touched on by President Vladimir Putin and Trump during their recent telephone conversation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

The closed door meeting will take place at 10:30am in the Oval Office, according to the White House. Lavrov arrived in the US late Tuesday on a two-day working visit which include talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Lavrov and Tillerson shook hands in front of reporters before the start of their meeting.

“I want to welcome Foreign Minister Lavrov to the State Department and express my appreciation for him making the trip to Washington so we could continue our dialogue and our exchange of views that began in Moscow on a very broad range of topics,” Tillerson said.

One reporter asked the Russian foreign minister to comment on the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“Was he fired? You’re kidding!” Lavrov said, leaving the room.

@RT_com 'Was he fired? You're kidding! You're kidding!': Lavrov is asked if Comey's firing casts a shadow over his visit

The encounter will be one of the highest-level contacts between Trump and the Russian government since the Republican took office in January. Earlier, a senior US official speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the agenda of the Trump-Lavrov meeting would entail Syria as well as US-Russian relations and other global issues.

Tillerson visited Russia on April 12 and held talks with both Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, with Trump saying the Secretary of State had done “tremendous work” in Moscow.

In late April, Putin noted that Trump had so far failed to make good on his campaign promises to seek better relations with Russia, adding that the level of trust between Moscow and Washington has even “degraded” since Obama left office.

READ MORE: Lavrov to meet Tillerson in Washington DC to talk Syria & Ukraine on May 10

However, last week, Trump and Putin spoke by phone where among other things they discussed the ongoing Syrian conflict.

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Lavrov: US antimissile deployment in Asia-Pacific ‘disproportionate’ to Pyongyang threat

South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD antimissile system from the US is disproportionate to the threat posed by North Korea, which was voiced as justification by both Seoul and Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We have drawn attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of the US global antiballistic missile system in Asia-Pacific,” Lavrov said after meeting his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Moscow. The two ministers met alongside their respective military colleagues, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors arrive at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea © USFK

“We have voiced our assessments, according to which, if one wants to deal with threats posed by DPRK, the creation of such ABM system as well as pumping weapons into the region are a response far from proportionate,” Lavrov said.

He added that both Moscow and Tokyo condemn Pyongyang’s violation of resolutions of the UN Security Council restricting its missile and nuclear development. Russia believes that international sanctions imposed against North Korea for defying the council “should not be perceived as an instrument of punishment, but rather a stimulus for steering the situation back into political and negotiations track.”

South Korea decided to deploy the THAAD system, due to be fully operational by August, saying it was necessary to protect from a possible missile attack by North Korea. The deployment angered China, which believes that the American system compromises its national security. Beijing is reportedly retaliating against Seoul with a round of economic measures, hitting Korean tourism and export to China.

Russia has similar concerns over the US deployment of ABM shield in Eastern Europe. Washington claims the system is needed to protect European NATO members from an attack by Iran and has brushed aside criticism from Moscow.


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Russia Readying Response to US Diplomatic Assault

Moscow, Dec 30 (Prensa Latina) Russia's Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov, has proposed expelling 31 US diplomats from Moscow and 4 from the US Consulate in St Petersburg in retaliation for a similar measure taken by Washington.

Lavrov said that his proposal, already presented to President Vladimir Putin, also includes the closure of a residence and a warehouse in Moscow, which are under the management of the US Embassy.

In an unprecedented action, not seen even in the worst moments of the Cold War, the White House yesterday gave 35 Russian diplomats (31 from Washington and 4 from San Francisco)72 hours to leave the country. The expulsions could cost Russia up to 13 million rubles, almost 220.000 US dollars, according to diplomatic sources.

The Obama Administration also ordered the closure of a country house on Long Island, which the Russian Embassy has owned since 1954, as well as another property in Maryland.

Lavrov criticized Washington for accusing Moscow, without presenting any proof, of interfering with the US elections through cyber attacks in the lead up to the defeat of Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

'They want to accuse us now of everything that has caused their foreign policy to fail, alluding to Syria and their inability to retain the White House,' Lavrov said.

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Russia to respond to any new US sanctions with ‘painful’ measures – deputy FM

Moscow will find response measures that would be “painful” for Washington if the US decides to continue toughening its sanctions against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian MPs.

“If the US opts to further toughen sanctions in defiance of common sense and in disregard of its experience that has already been quite painful for them, then we will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world,” Ryabkov told the deputies of the Russian State Duma, ahead of a vote on a bill suspending the Russian-American deal on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium.

The Russian deputy foreign minister also said that the US continues to issue threats “on a daily basis” concerning the imposition of new sanctions against Russia “under various pretexts.” He added that 281 Russian legal entities and 81 officials, including a number of high-ranking figures, are now on the US sanctions list.

At the same time, the US “continues its efforts aimed at bringing its military infrastructure nearer to Russian borders and forming anti-Russian alliances with its European allies,” he said.

Russia’s response moves are “strictly proportionate and adequate” and show that “Russia pursues a rational line and is not guided by emotions,” Ryabkov stressed.

He went on to suggest that Russia could always shift gears and resort to “asymmetrical” measures in its response. He pointed to the recently suspended agreements between the US and Russia in the nuclear energy field as an example.

The “essence” of the present crisis in relations between the US and Russia lies in the fact that “under the current administration, [US foreign policy] became even more arrogant, forceful and focused on the attempts to impose its will on other countries,” the diplomat said, adding that such policy “is doomed to failure from the start in relations with our country.”

“The White House has only itself to blame for the problems in many parts of the world as well as for the difficulties in relations with Russia,” Ryabkov said.

On Wednesday, the Russian State Duma voted in favor of a bill submitted by the president’s office that suspends a deal between the US and Russia on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium extracted from decommissioned warheads.

The deal, ratified in 2000, envisaged a specific procedure of disposing plutonium by fabricating nuclear plant fuel from it. However, the US later said that this procedure was too costly and instead opted for mixing plutonium with special dilutants and storing it indefinitely.

Russia regarded this as a breach of the agreement and stressed that the US could now potentially restore its weapons-grade plutonium.

The bill adopted on Wednesday lists measures the US should take for the agreement to be resumed. This includes reducing the US military presence on the territory of the NATO members that joined the bloc since September 1, 2000, as well as the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and compensating the loss Russia suffered as a result.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending the reprocessing agreement on October 3, in view of “a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time that it was a “forced measure” that should become “a signal to Washington.”

On October 5, Moscow also announced the suspension of cooperation agreements with the US in the nuclear and energy sectors. Russia said that the agreements covering scientific and technical cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes were “in a sleep mode” in the past two years because of US actions, and that Moscow’s move simply “reflects the reality.”

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Russia Reacts to Sweden Possibly Joining NATO

Moscow, Apr 29 (Prensa Latina) Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that if Sweden decides to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russia will be obliged to give a technical-military response to this geopolitical change.

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Russian Foreign Minister Criticizes US Approach on Syria

Moscow, Apr 25 (Prensa Latina) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday described as simplistic the US approach on the proposal to fragmentize Syria in zones of influence for an alleged effective control of the ceasefire.

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Lavrov: Policy of restraining Russia continues, high time to drop it

The US and the EU are still pursuing a dangerous policy of restraining Russia, including the NATO military build-up near its borders, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, adding that Moscow is ready to cooperate on an equal and mutually beneficial basis.

“The policy of restraining Russia continues, though it is high time to drop this policy and file it in the historical archives,” Lavrov told a media briefing in Moscow.

He agreed that relations between Moscow and the West would never be the same again.

“Our western colleagues say sometimes that there will be no more ‘business as usual’ with Russia – and I’m confident that statement is absolutely correct,” Lavrov said.

“There will be no more business as usual after they attempted to impose agreements on us respecting the interests of either the European Union or the US in the first place, trying to convince us that they will not damage our interests,” he said. “That’s over now.”

Russia concerns won’t restrict NATO missile defense – US official

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Moscow is ready for “close, constructive cooperation” with its western partners, yet solely and only on an equal and mutually beneficial basis, “without interference into each other’s internal affairs, with respect for the principal interests of each side,” Lavrov said.

Western countries are still trying to “accrue one-sided benefits" and even attempting "to punish us for conducting an independent international policy,” Lavrov said.

“Of course, we take that into account in our actions. But that’s not our choice.”

NATO's build-up near Russia’s borders is shortsighted, the Russian foreign minister said, adding that Moscow would keep an eye on the concentration of military potential in neighboring countries.

"Now we see the counterproductive and dangerous policy in relations with Russia, including the build-up of NATO's military potential near our borders and the creation of global European and Asian segments of a global US missile defense," Lavrov said.

He added that Moscow considers such actions destabilizing and shortsighted.

Hype surrounding Litvinenko case will ‘worsen’ Russian-British relations

The hype surrounding the Aleksandr Litvinenko case is going to “definitely worsen” Russian-British relations, Sergey Lavrov acknowledged.

Speaking on the conclusions of the public investigation regarding the death of the former FSB officer Litvinenko, who died of polonium poisoning in London in 2006, Lavrov called attention to the “gravest accusations brought against the Russian leadership without providing any evidence at all.”

Lavrov added that should “a savvy lawyer take up the case and analyze the facts and the statements made by the British policymakers, they could be held liable for libel.”

Moscow not interested in crumbling EU

“We’re not interested in the EU getting weaker, leave alone the union splitting up. We are interested in a united and strong European Union, a comfortable partner on the economy and all other issues. But we cannot fail to see the current developments,” Lavrov went on, emphasizing the decisive role of Germany in maintaining EU’s unity.

Syrian peace talks impossible without Kurds

No peace talks to resolve the Syrian crisis can be successful without the Syrian Kurds participating in them, Lavrov said. Yet the final decision on whether to invite the Kurds remains with the UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and Moscow is not going to veto it.

“We’ve been hearing from certain members of the international Syrian support group, I’d say from one member, doubts about whether the Syrian Kurds, more specifically the Democratic Union Party [PYD], should be invited to the talks. I believe that without that participant the talks will fail to deliver the result we expect, which is a final political settlement in Syria,” Lavrov said, pointing out that the Kurds make up to 15 percent of Syria’s population and inhabit a “considerable, moreover crucial territory.”

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Ukraine crisis

Official Kiev perceives Western sanctions against Russia as a license to ignore the conditions of the Minsk-2 agreements, Lavrov said.

“Prolongation of the sanctions is being taken for the West’s agreement that Kiev could abstain from fulfilling the agreements,” he stated.

“We don’t want anyone to form policies out of misconception that it is Russia, not Ukraine, who must fulfill the Minsk-2 agreements,” Lavrov warned, noting that contacts with Victoria Nuland suggest that the US understand the essence of Minsk-2 agreements well.

North Korean ‘thermonuclear test’ questionable

Moscow is not sure that Pyongyang tested a thermonuclear device on January 6, Lavrov said.

If it was actually a thermonuclear test, that would mean that the UN resolution, introducing stiff restrictions on the supply of nuclear materials to North Korea, is not working and that Pyongyang is still managing to acquire what it needs for its military nuclear program, Lavrov said.

“If the test was an explosion of yet another ‘regular’ nuclear device – then the restrictions do work,” he said.

The Russian foreign minister stressed that there should be no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula at all, either North Korean or South Korean, nor the “elements of American nuclear weapons that should not be deployed to South Korea.”

The nuclear security of the Korean peninsula cannot be discussed without Pyongyang, Lavrov added.

“We’ve heard those proposals from South Korea to hold a 6-1 meeting, without North Korea. I don’t think this is a good idea, because once again it would mean we’re trying to isolate someone,” Lavrov said, instancing Iran as a country that expanded its nuclear program with a “colossal momentum” with wide international sanctions in place.

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