Lavrov jokes about FBI boss′s firing before Trump talks | News | DW | 10.05.2017
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Lavrov jokes about FBI boss's firing before Trump talks

Russia's foreign minister managed a quip about the dismissal of the FBI director before meeting high-level US officials. Meanwhile relations between the Trump administration and Russia appeared to take on a warmer tone.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right in photo) met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) on Wednesday before the Kremlin's emissary moved on to the White House for talks with US President Donald Trump.

Tillerson called his meeting with Lavrov a chance for the two diplomats to "continue our dialogue" and the "exchange of views" that they started last month in Moscow. During that trip, Tillerson said he sought to rebuild the relationship between the nations. Possible topics for Wednesday's talks included the civil wars in Syria and Ukraine, both of which Russia has played a role in.

The diplomats met a day after the administration fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been investigating Russia's relationship with Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and many of the president's official circle. The White House has already begun its search for a new FBI director.

"Was he fired?" Lavrov joked about Comey before talks with Tillerson. "You're kidding. You're kidding." The US secretary of state did not mention the matter.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the Kremlin had no interest in Comey's firing. Dmitry Peskov said Kremlin officials hoped Trump's decision to dismiss the FBI director would not affect Russia's relationship with the United States "in any way." Peskov called it "an entirely domestic matter" for the US.

Read: Shock, criticism, comedy greet Trump's firing of Comey

US-Russia relations seem to improve

Lavrov later met with Trump, but the talks yielded few concrete outcomes other than warm pleasantries. Less than a month after Trump declared relations with Russia to be at "an all time low" Trump said they "had a very, very good meeting."

Trump "emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia," the White House said in a statement.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a photo of the two meeting, while Lavrov praised the US, saying his meetings had convinced him the US administration wanted to cut deals and solve problems. 

"The Trump administration, and the president himself, and the secretary of state, I was persuaded of this once again today, are people of action," Lavrov said.

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

Flip-flop on Assad position

The two did discuss the ongoing Syrian civil war but were short on details. Trump appeared to soften his position on Bashar Al-Assad once again.

In March the Trump administration expressed that it was no longer focused on forcing Assad out of power, with Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, saying "you pick and choose your battles." But a chemical attack on civilians soon after seemingly changed the commander-in-chief's mind. At the time Secretary Tillerson said Assad had “no role” in Syria’s future and that “steps were underway” to oust him.

But following this latest meeting, Trump told Lavrov Moscow should "rein in the Assad regime, Iran and Iranian proxies."

"We want to see the killing, the horrible killing, stopped in Syria as soon as possible and everyone is working toward that end," Trump told reporters.

Lavrov said he had sought support for a plan to create safe zones in Syria.

"As active players in the diplomatic process regarding Syria, we are going to pursue these contacts together and with other key countries, especially those in the region," Lavrov said.

aw,mkg/kl (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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