We have held a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was a pragmatic and business-like meeting, which I would describe as productive in that we compared our views on prospects for working together in the areas which our presidents discussed in principle during their telephone conversation on January 28. We reaffirmed the existence of similar or identical interests, primarily with regard to the irreconcilable struggle against terrorism in the context of our cooperation within the political settlement in Syria and other countries where terrorism has taken root. We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Our American partners have expressed interest in joining the efforts that are being taken to settle these conflicts.
We expressed our willingness to develop contact as soon as the teams working on this issue at the US Department of State and other US departments take shape. It is obvious that we could not resolve all of the problems. I believe it is impossible to settle absolutely every problem in relations between large powers such as Russia and the United States. But we share the belief that we must move forward in the numerous areas where we have similar interests and we must demonstrate the ability of Russia and the United States to play the roles they are destined to play due to their positions in the world.
We discussed bilateral relations, which were seriously damaged by the Obama administration, especially in the last months of its term. Mr Tillerson reaffirmed the resolve, expressed by US President Donald Trump in his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin, to overcome the legacy of the past and to remove obstacles to rebuilding relations, although there will always be issues that need to be discussed and coordinated. All the differences cannot be settled in one meeting, of course.
We have agreed to maintain contact. There will be several opportunities for this in the coming months. We will act on the assumption that President Putin and President Trump will meet when they think it appropriate.
Question: Did you discuss the sanctions?
Sergey Lavrov: No, we didn’t. We believe that this is an abnormal situation, and that those who initiated the sanctions [against Russia] should analyse their effectiveness, whether sanctions can be part of normal relations between states, and whether the artificial desire to politicise certain issues meets the interests of the states that apply sanctions.
Question: Did Secretary of State Tillerson express his opinion about the Astana talks?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, he said he was willing to support this process. As you know, US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol attended the January meeting in Astana as an observer, and he is also attending today’s meeting. An invitation to the meeting was sent to the United States. Washington has decided that, during the initial period of the new US administration and the State Department section on the Syrian settlement, the country will be represented by the US Ambassador to Kazakhstan, who attended the Astana meetings in January and today, as I said.
Question: What is your first impression of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his new capacity?
Sergey Lavrov: I have not met Mr Tillerson before. As I said, we had a productive, pragmatic, open and, in my opinion, useful meeting.
At midday on Friday 5 February, 2016 Julian Assange, John Jones QC, Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and Baltasar Garzon will be speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club on the decision made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the Assange case.