Russia urges ‘cooperation’ with US as Tillerson visits
Russia said Tuesday it was hoping to avoid confrontation and engage in "constructive cooperation" with Washington as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson headed to Moscow.
“We are not set on confrontation, but on constructive cooperation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We hope that this is also what the American side wants.”
Tillerson’s visit — the first by a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration — comes after Moscow vehemently rebuked Washington for missile strikes against a Syrian air base last week in response to an alleged chemical attack the White House blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow has sought to deflect blame from its long-time ally Assad over the incident and says Syrian jets struck a rebel arms depot where “toxic substances” were being put inside bombs.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it hoped for “productive talks” with Tillerson to understand “to what extent the United States understands the need for stabilising and normalising bilateral relations.”
“For our part we proceed from the fact that a standstill (in relations) is unacceptable given the specific responsibility of our countries in maintaining international security and strategic stability,” it said.
Russia’s hopes of improving relations under Trump have already dimmed as ties to Moscow have become politically toxic for his administration, after allegations the Kremlin conducted a hacking and influence campaign to help get him elected.
Relations between Moscow and Washington slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War under former president Barack Obama after the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
Tillerson is set to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov would not confirm whether Tillerson would also meet President Vladimir Putin during his two-day trip.