Russian minister jokes about Comey firing

Brunilde Fioravanti
Mag 11, 2017

President Donald Trump will host Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov for talks at the White House today, his highest-level encounter with a Russian official since taking office.

Trump and Lavrov met in private, though both sides cast the session as a sign of ties having improved since the US leader's assessment of them last month as at an "all-time low".

Though US-Russia relations plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War (at least according to the White House and Kremlin), Tillerson and Lavrov have met twice before since Trump took office: Once in Bonn in February, and once in Moscow in April.

Russian Federation has signed the agreement along with Iran - its partner in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - as well as Turkey, a U.S. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally that is backing rebels in a six-year civil war against Assad.

"We'll look at the proposal, see if it can work", said Mattis, keeping the priority on defeating Daesh in Syria.

Lavrov cracked a joke about Comey's firing, answering shouted questions from reporters by saying: "Was he fired?".

The meeting will be hard to separate from the unfolding political drama in Washington.

Both diplomats will still travel to Fairbanks for that summit, where Tillerson will also meet individually with other foreign ministers.

Less than a month into Mr Trump's presidency, he sacked his national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

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

Trump made the comments right around the time the US launched missiles into Syria after a chemical gas attack that the USA blamed on the Syrian government. Tillerson ignored questions about Trump and Comey.

During a brief appearance before journalists, Lavrov mocked an American journalist who asked him if "the Comey firing cast a shadow of your talks".

Lavrov says American politicians who are raising questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election are damaging the USA political system by suggesting it's being controlled by outsiders.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says Tillerson and Lavrov agreed that the United Nations process is "central to global efforts to bring about an enduring resolution".

"President Trump clearly confirmed his interest in building mutually beneficial, business-like pragmatic relations", he said.

Russian Federation is ready to cooperate with the USA in setting up de-escalation zones in Syria, Lavrov stressed.

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