Pompeo to Meet Russia's Putin, Lavrov in Sochi to Discuss Venezuela, Iran

© REUTERS / Mandel Ngan/PoolU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for the press as they meet on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland May 6, 2019
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for the press as they meet on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland May 6, 2019 - Sputnik International
SOCHI (Sputnik) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Russian resort city of Sochi on Tuesday. The situation in and around Venezuela, Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, Iran, as well as arms control is expected to be high on the agenda.

The Russian and US top diplomats will hold talks on Tuesday afternoon and then be received by the Russian president, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Pompeo was initially scheduled to begin his trip to Russia with a visit to Moscow on 13 May, but in the early hours of Monday, the US State Department announced a change in Pompeo's plans.

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Instead of Moscow, he travelled to Brussels to discuss "recent threatening actions and statements" by Iran, who announced last week that they would be suspending some of their obligations under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), following the US withdrawal last year.

The announcement of Pompeo's visit to Russia, organised at the behest of the US, came as a surprise, given that he had met with Lavrov as recently as last week, on the sidelines of the Arctic Council's ministerial session in Finland. According to Lavrov, the agenda of the consultations was full, the main topic was the situation in Venezuela. The sides also discussed Syria, Ukraine, and bilateral issues.

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Before the ministerial meetings in Finland and Sochi, the Russian and US presidents had an hour-long phone call on 3 May, during which they also discussed Venezuela and Ukraine, as well as arms control.

Global Issues

Both the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department announced that their top diplomats would address a wide range of pressing international issues.

This includes crisis-hit Venezuela, where the United States supports opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, while Russia along with China recognises Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate president.

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The tensions in the Latin American country further flared up in late April, when Guaido made a fresh attempt to depose Maduro, staging a demonstration in front of the La Carlota military base in Caracas. However, the attempt "failed completely", according to the Venezuelan government.

Lavrov and Pompeo will also address the situation in Iran amid the heightened tensions around the JCPOA, which Russia is a party to, and continuing sanctions pressure from the United States.

Furthermore, the two sides will address the situation on the Korean Peninsula in light of the failure of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, the Russia-North Korea summit in Vladivostok last month, as well as the short-range missile tests by Pyongyang on 4 and 9 May.

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The agenda of Tuesday's talks will also include Syria, which has been mired in a civil war since 2011. The government's forces there are fighting against numerous opposition groups as well as militant and terrorist organisations. A senior State Department official noted in a conference call on Friday that the United States and Russia, who both have troops in Syria, had a "very productive deconfliction channel", noting that Washington would continue to use this type of communication.

The diplomats will also discuss the situation in Ukraine after last month's presidential election in the Eastern European country, which resulted in a landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy over incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.

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The top diplomats might also touch upon the criminal proceedings against Russian and US citizens in each other's countries. A senior State Department official told reporters on Friday that he did not rule out Pompeo addressing the case of US citizen Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in December on charges of espionage.

Meanwhile, Alexander Brod, a senior member of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told Sputnik that relatives of Russian citizen Bogdana Osipova, who is awaiting sentencing in the United States for kidnapping her own children, urged Lavrov and Pompeo to raise the woman's case during their upcoming meeting in Sochi.

Arms Control at Stake

According to a senior State Department official, Pompeo will discuss possible new arms control agreements with the Russian leadership during his trip to Sochi.

"The issue high on the agenda for the discussions will be arms control… President Trump has made clear that he wants arms control agreements that reflect modern reality", the official told reporters on Friday.

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Moscow and Washington have been at odds over arms control issues since Trump announced in February that the United States would be withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which stipulated the destruction of all cruise or ground-launched ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (310 and 3,400 miles).

Another bilateral agreement in question is the New START. The accord came into force in 2011 and covers a 10-year period with the possibility of a five-year extension. The agreement limits the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, nuclear-armed bombers, and nuclear warheads.

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Lavrov said the New START would be one of the central topics of talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"I believe this [the fate of New START] will be one of the central topics of our talks", Lavrov told a press conference after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

The Russian minister noted that the fulfilment of commitments on controversial issues must be resolved.

Mapping Out Russia-US Summit

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Sputnik on Monday that a possible meeting between the Russian and US presidents at the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka in late June might be discussed during Pompeo’s visit to Sochi.

"I do not rule out that it could become a topic for discussion", Ryabkov said.

The deputy minister noted, however, that even though the G20 summit in Japan was hypothetically a good opportunity for a meeting between the two heads of state, the US had earlier cancelled previously reached agreements and changed its plans.

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On Monday, Trump said that he will meet with Putin as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan. Later, the Kremlin said that no preparations for a bilateral summit were underway and ruled out a trilateral US-Russia-China meeting due to statements coming from the China.

The G20 summit in Osaka is scheduled to take place on 28-29 June.

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