Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is meeting his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, at a G20 summit in Germany. It is 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.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that the meeting with Tillerson had been included in Lavrov’s agenda.
She did not elaborate on what Lavrov and Tillerson are planning to address in their meeting, but earlier comments from the Foreign Ministry suggested that Syria and sensitive bilateral issues would be discussed.
Later in the day, 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.