US, Russia ‘can settle problems’ Washington to respond by Sept 1 to Moscow’s expulsion of diplomats
MANILA — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday he believes that Washington and Russia can find a way to ease tensions, saying it wouldn’t be useful to cut ties over the single issue of alleged Russian meddling in the US election last year.
Tillerson said Russia had also expressed some willingness to resume talks on the crisis in Ukraine, where a 2015 cease-fire between Kiev’s forces and local militia forces in the eastern part of the country is regularly violated.
“We should find places we can work together. ... In places we have differences we’re going to have to continue to find ways to address those,” Tillerson told reporters.
He also said the Trump administration has yet to decide how to respond to Russia’s move to expel hundreds of US diplomats, but plans to deliver a response to Moscow by Sept 1.
Russia said recently it was forcing the US to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people, a move that echoed former president Barack Obama’s action to kick out Russian diplomats for Moscow’s alleged meddling.
Tillerson met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of an international gathering in Manila on Sunday, where he also asked about Moscow’s retaliation to new US sanctions against Russia.
The meeting was their first since President Donald Trump reluctantly signed into law the sanctions that Russia said amounted to a full-scale trade war and ended hopes for better ties.
Lavrov on Sunday said he believed his US colleagues were ready to continue dialogue with Moscow on complex issues despite tensions.
We are ready to normalize the dialogue, if Washington gives up the confrontational line.” Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister
“Naturally, such actions (the US sanctions), including the illegal seizure of our diplomatic property since December last year, could not be left unanswered,” Lavrov said in a statement issued through the TASS Russian News Agency.
“At the same time, we are ready to normalize the dialogue, if Washington gives up the confrontational line,” he added.
Tillerson said he discussed Russia’s alleged meddling with Lavrov to “help them understand how serious this incident had been and how seriously it damaged the relationship” between the two nations.
But Tillerson said that should not irreversibly damage ties.
“The fact that we want to work with them on areas that are of serious national security interest to us, and at the same time having this extraordinary issue of mistrust that divides us, that is just what we in the diplomatic part of our relationship are required to do,” Tillerson said.