Kremlin guarded about US-Russian ties

A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday shows US President Donald Trump (far left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (second from left) meeting in the Oval Office. White House officials denied US reporters
A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday shows US President Donald Trump (far left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (second from left) meeting in the Oval Office. White House officials denied US reporters permission to witness the meeting or take photographs, but Russian state media quickly published images taken by their official photographer of Mr Trump shaking hands with the envoys. The pictures quickly spread on Twitter.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Too early to say there's a thaw, says spokesman after Trump and Lavrov meet at White House

MOSCOW • The Kremlin said it was too early to speak of a thaw in ties with Washington, a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met US President Donald Trump.

"It's too early to draw this conclusion," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters yesterday. But he added: "Of course the fact that a dialogue is taking place is very positive."

Mr Peskov said both Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to be at the Group of 20 summit in Germany in July, which "could serve as a good occasion" for them to meet.

Wednesday's meeting came as Mr Trump was embroiled in a political firestorm over investigations into allegations that his US presidential election campaign had colluded with Russia.

Mr Lavrov met both Mr Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, saying the US President was seeking "mutually beneficial" and "pragmatic" relations with Moscow.

NEED FOR TRUST

The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.

US SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON, on the "low level of trust" between the United States and Russia, whose relations have sunk to a post-Cold War low over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

"The goal of both President Trump and President Putin is to have concrete results which will be tangible and which will allow (us) to alleviate problems, including on the international agenda," he told reporters.

Mr Tillerson had travelled to Moscow last month for talks with Mr Lavrov. Mr Tillerson, who also had a closed-door meeting with Mr Putin during his visit, deplored the "low level of trust" between the two powers, whose relations have sunk to a post-Cold War low over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

"The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship," he said.

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Mr Sergey Kislyak - best known to many Americans as the man who discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with Mr Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn - was also in the Oval Office for the meeting between Mr Lavrov and Mr Trump, in what proved to be awkward optically, given the week's event and what followed.

The world's only glimpse of this session came from Russian news agency Tass, which distributed photos of the meeting, with a grinning Mr Trump shaking hands with the two visitors. No reporters were allowed in to ask questions - although they were ushered in minutes later for Mr Trump's session with Dr Henry Kissinger .

Dr Kissinger was secretary of state when Mr Richard Nixon resigned as US president in the face of the so-called Watergate scandal, which some Democrats and media are comparing with the current investigation into possible Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

Later, when Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked about the Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey's firing, he begged off.

"We don't have anything to do with this," Mr Putin, dressed in a hockey uniform, said. "President Trump is acting within his competence, the Constitution and the law. What do we have to do with this?"

Mr Putin then begged off to go and play in a gala hockey event he founded

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Kremlin guarded about US-Russian ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe