Lavrov and Pompeo urge closer US-Russia ties, still disagree over Iran nuclear deal

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo prior to their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, southern Russia, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a joint news conference after their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia May 14, 2019. (Reuters)
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold a joint press conference following their talks in Sochi on May 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019

Lavrov and Pompeo urge closer US-Russia ties, still disagree over Iran nuclear deal

SOCHI: Russia and the United States voiced hope for better ties Tuesday as President Vladimir Putin welcomed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but tensions were laid bare in a clash over election meddling.
In a late-night encounter in Putin's forested dacha in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Pompeo became the highest-ranking American to meet the Russian leader in 10 months.
"I would very much like your visit to Russia to benefit Russia-US relations and promote their development," Putin told Pompeo as he took a seat across from him in a sleek conference room, saying that they should "fully restore" relations.
Putin praised a two-year investigation by US special counsel Robert Mueller, despite its findings that Russia meddled extensively in the 2016 election on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump, especially by manipulating social media.
But the probe found that his campaign did not collude with Russia -- lifting one cloud that has hung over Trump since his unexpected victory.
"Despite the exotic nature of Mr Mueller's commission, on the whole he conducted quite an objective investigation and confirmed the absence of any collusion between the US administration and Russia," Putin said.
Pompeo, speaking earlier at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, acknowledged deep differences on election meddling -- and warned Russia to stay out of next year's vote.
"Interference in American elections is unacceptable. If Russia engaged in that in 2020, it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been," Pompeo said.
"I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these kinds of activities are a thing of the past. I hope that Russia takes advantage of those opportunities," he said.
Lavrov hit back against "those who are inflating this topic" and saying of collusion: "It's clear that such insinuations are absolute fiction."
"We want and we are ready to deal with cybersecurity issues along with our American partners, without any politicisation," he said.
Pompeo nonetheless also voiced hope for a better future with Russia.
He said that his mission came from Trump, who has persistently praised Putin -- a loathed figure for virtually all of the US political class.
Trump, he said, wants the United States and Russia "to do everything we can" to create a future that is "more successful" for both countries and the world as a whole.
"Some of our cooperation has been excellent -- on North Korea, on Afghanistan, we've done good work -- (and) counter-terrorism work -- together. These are things we can build upon," Pompeo said.
Pompeo was the highest-ranking American to see Putin since July when the Russian leader met in Helsinki with Trump -- who shocked the US establishment by seeming to take at face value Putin's denials of election interference.
Putin's aide Yuri Ushakov said the president and Pompeo discussed Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the situation in North Korea, following leader Kim Jong Un's first visit to Russia last month.
However in the 90 minutes of closed-door talks they did not touch on the Ukraine crisis and only briefly discussed sanctions imposed by Washington over Russia's backing of separatist rebels in the country.
They equally did not touch on Michael Calvey, a prominent American investor who has been behind bars in Moscow since mid-February on controversial fraud charges, Ushakov said.


Russia, China seek UN Security Council meeting on US missile developments

Updated 35 sec ago

Russia, China seek UN Security Council meeting on US missile developments

  • The Pentagon has said it had tested a conventionally configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 km of flight
  • Russian President Putin said the US was in a position to deploy a new land-based cruise missile in Romania and Poland
UNITED NATIONS: Russia and China have asked the United Nations Security Council to meet on Thursday over “statements by US officials on their plans to develop and deploy medium-range missiles,” according to the request seen by Reuters.
Moscow and Beijing want to convene the 15-member council under the agenda item “threats to international peace and security” and have requested that UN disarmament affairs chief Izumi Nakamitsu brief the body.
The Pentagon said on Monday it had tested a conventionally configured cruise missile that hit its target after more than 500 km (310 miles) of flight, the first such test since the United States pulled out Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked in a Fox News Channel interview on Wednesday whether the test was aimed at sending a message to China, Russia or North Korea and indicated that the main concern was China.
“We want to make sure that we, as we need to, have the capability to deter Chinese bad behavior by having our own capability to be able to strike at intermediate ranges,” he said.
Esper said on a visit to Australia this month he was in favor of placing ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia relatively soon.
Esper was also asked about a rocket test accident in Russia this month which US officials believe was associated with the Kremlin’s hypersonic cruise missile program.
“Clearly they are trying to expand their strategic nuclear arsenal to deal with the United States,” he said, adding that all such new weapons would have to be included in any future strategic arms reduction treaty.
“Right now Russia has possibly nuclear-tipped ... INF-range cruise missiles facing toward Europe, and that’s not a good thing,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the United States was in a position to deploy a new land-based cruise missile in Romania and Poland, a scenario he considered a threat that Moscow would need to respond to.
The United States has said it has no imminent plans to deploy new land-based missiles in Europe.
This week’s US test would have been banned under the INF, which prohibited land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles, reducing the ability of the United States and Russia to launch a nuclear strike at short notice. China was not a party to the INF treaty and has a large arsenal of land-based intermediate-range missiles.
Washington formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 pact with Russia on Aug. 2 after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin has denied.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that the US test showed the United States was stoking a new arms race and confrontation, which would have a serious negative impact on regional and global security.
A North Korean spokesman said on Thursday the US test and plans to deploy F-35 jets and offensive military equipment around the Korean peninsula were “dangerous” moves that would “trigger a new Cold War” in the region.
Asked whether he thought it was appropriate for Washington to continue to seek negotiations with Pyongyang after its repeated recent tests of short-range missiles, Esper said the biggest US concern was about North Korea’s long-range missiles, tests of which it has frozen since 2017.
“I think you need to take a look at the bigger picture,” he said when asked if recent US statements playing down the short-range tests amounted to giving North Korea permission to conduct them.