Sergey Lavrov discussed a host of issues with Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, including arms control and Ukraine. Lavrov repeated his denial that Russia intervened in the US presidential election.
Donald Trump met Tuesday with Russia's top diplomat at the White House to discuss a range of issues, just hours after the House of Representatives unveiled Ukraine-related articles of impeachment against the president.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's first visit to Washington since May 2017 drew controversy, not least for the closed door invite to the Oval Office in breach of standard diplomatic protocol, under which a president would not meet a foreign minister one-on-one.
Their last meeting at the White House turned into a public relations disaster for Trump, who was accused by unnamed US officials of sharing highly classified information and reportedly downplaying Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Earlier in the day, Lavrov met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned against Russian tampering in US elections. Lavrov repeated Moscow's denial that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"I was clear: It's unacceptable, and I made our expectations of Russia clear,'' Pompeo said of election interference at a joint press conference. "The Trump administration will always work to protect the integrity of our elections. Period. Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes, we will take action in response.''
Pompeo and Lavrov also discussed arms control agreements, conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, North Korea's nuclear program and Venezuela.
Lavrov arrived in Washington after a meeting in Paris on Monday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was mediated by the leaders of Germany and France. The four-way summit revived a stalled peace process to end the conflict between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Pompeo said that he and Lavrov "spent a fair amount of time talking about Ukraine.''
Saving nuclear arms treaty
On arms control, the two sides appeared no nearer to resolving their differences over the New START treaty that expires in February 2021 but can be extended by five years with mutual agreement.
Moscow has proposed extending the New START treaty, which requires both nations to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads in half. But Washington wants to include China in any new arms control discussions.
"There is real risk that there is a reduction in strategic stability just staying right where we are," Pompeo said, noting that that delivery systems have evolved beyond the missiles, bombers and submarines covered by the New START treaty signed in 2010.
"Not only do the conversations need to be broadened to include the Chinese Communist Party, but they need to be broadened as well to encompass the full range of instruments of power," Pompeo said.
Lavrov reiterated Moscow's desire to keep the treaty alive.
"The ball is in our American partners' court," Lavrov said.
The impending expiration of New START follows this year's demise of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
On Syria, the two sides agreed to keep communications open and reiterated a desire for a political solution to end the conflict.
cw/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)