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
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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.


Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

Updated 22 May 2019
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Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

  • Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government
  • Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept the trash, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nation,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing.
Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government.
Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back and the two countries are in the process of arranging the transfer.
But Canada missed a May 15 deadline set by Manila to take back the shipment, prompting the Philippines to withdraw top diplomats from Canada last week.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dump site,” Panelo said.
The Canadian embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Philippines has made several diplomatic protests to Canada since a 2016 court ruling that the garbage be returned.
The consignments were labelled as containing plastics to be recycled in the Philippines but were filled with a variety of rubbish including diapers, newspapers and water bottles.
The issue is not the only one to strain ties between the two countries.
Last year, Duterte ordered the military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada, after Ottawa expressed concern they could be used to fight rebels.