Washington, DC. After meeting with President Trump for the first time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to be hopeful that differences could be put aside and progress made, after the White House meeting yesterday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed his meeting with President Trump in a press conference shortly after they spoke on Wednesday. Lavrov told reporters at the Russian Embassy that he did not talk with Trump about the accusations Moscow meddled in last year’s US presidential election.
Lavrov praised the Trump administration’s “businesslike” approach to Russia, in contrast to what he described as the more ideological position of former President Barack Obama. Lavrov expressed optimism that the Trump administration and Russia can “contribute jointly to the settlement of the most urgent issues in international affairs,” including the war in Syria.
Minister Lavrov came to the press conference straight from the White House, where he spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and met with President Trump in the Oval Office.
During his meeting with Tillerson, Lavrov mocked reporters who asked him about Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, which was announced on Tuesday evening. “Was he fired?” Lavrov asked. “You’re kidding! You’re kidding!”
At the press conference after Lavrov left the White House, reporters asked the Russian foreign minister if he was happy to see Comey go, as the FBI was one of the agencies that concluded Moscow intervened in the election. Lavrov suggested it is a routine matter for officials to be removed from their posts.
“This is a question that has nothing to do with my authority,” Lavrov said of Comey. “I can give you lots of examples when, in Russia, in France, in Great Britain, people are appointed, then dismissed. That is your internal issue.”
Foreign Minister Lavrov said he did not discuss sanctions at the White House, though he described the issue of Russia’s “diplomatic property” as a “priority” and said he is confident Trump views the sanctions imposed by Obama last year, as “illegal.”
“It is clear that the outgoing Obama administration undertook very pitiful dirty tricks against our diplomats and our property,” Lavrov said. “Our diplomats were ordered to get out of the country and they were given only 24 hours to do that. I believe that everyone understands in Trump’s administration that these are illegal actions.”
In the wake of Obama’s sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would hold off retaliating until Trump took office in January in order to get a sense of the new administration’s policies towards Moscow. Trump praised Putin’s decision as a “great move.”
“As of now, we decided not to be hasty with retaliation because President Putin doesn’t want to follow the lead of those who are trying to poison our relations to the point of no return,” said Lavrov. “Our American partners are aware of our position. They know about our right to retaliate. … We wouldn’t want to use this right and we do hope we’ll be able to settle the situation without deteriorating our relations even further.”
Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke of the terrible state of Americas relationship with Russia. He said Obama’s White House “bent over backwards to undermine the solid foundation of our relations and right now we have to start from a very low level of our relations.” Lavrov described the Trump administration as taking a more “businesslike, fruitful approach” and said his deputies will be regularly in communication with Tillerson’s.
“We agreed to continue using this channel to address the irritants that were artificially introduced into our relations,” Lavrov stated.
Lavrov predicted this approach could lead to solutions on several major international issues including the war in Syria. He said Syria was discussed in “great detail” during his White House visit and that America and Russia have a “common understanding” that establishing safe zones for civilians would be a positive step in that conflict.