U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday that Washington would brook no interference by Moscow in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, saying such a move would seriously harm already poor relations.
Visiting Russia for the first time as secretary of state, Pompeo publicly clashed with Lavrov on issues from Ukraine to Venezuela. After their meeting, both men said they had been far apart on many issues.
But both signaled some modest progress had been made and said they shared a desire to improve battered ties despite not being able to confirm a suggestion from U.S. President Donald Trump that he would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a meeting of the G20 in Japan next month.
“We had a frank discussion about many issues, including many places where we disagree. The United States stands ready to find common ground with Russia as long as the two of us can engage seriously on those issues,” Pompeo told Lavrov.
“President Trump has made clear that his expectation is that we will have an improved relationship between our two countries. This will benefit each of our peoples. And I think that our talks here today were a good step in that direction.”
Ties between the two countries have long been poisoned by allegations – denied by Moscow – that Russia tried to influence the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Tom Balmforth, Christian Lowe and Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Gareth Jones)