14:54 GMT +318 January 2020
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    Moscow is ready to develop relations with the United States and move as far as Washington, Russia's deputy foreign minister said.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Moscow is ready to rapidly advance in relations with Washington to the extent that the United States wants to itself, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday.

    "We welcome the signals sent by the US president and members of his administration to improve relations," Ryabkov told lawmakers. "We are ready to move as far as and as intensively as the US partners would be."

    The problem facing normalization in relations between Russia and the United States is the difficulty of formulating a coinciding agenda, Ryabkov said.

    "The new US administration will encounter difficult questions at the very least, and maybe contradictions from many countries and politicians. This is already taking place," he added.

    Moscow is under no illusions or exaggerated expectations on the prospects of restoring relations with the United States, Ryabkov said.

    The current US administrations presents an opportunity to at least improve ties after a period of degradation under ex-president Barack Obama, Ryabkov said.

    "Whether we succeed, we do not yet know. We do not have high expectations, we have no illusions. But we have a sober assessment of the situation and of opportunities," the diplomat noted.

    Russia considers the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) to be a mutually beneficial and balanced instrument, Ryabkov said.

    "We have always considered and consider the 2010 New START to be a mutually beneficial, balanced instrument which does not make any unilateral concessions and which seriously boosts the sides’ security," Ryabkov said.

    US President Donald Trump called the treaty "one-sided," as well as a "bad deal" in an interview with Reuters.

    "We view these statements as a given. They were not surprising for us, they fit into the political fabric which the representatives of the administration and the leadership of the new US administration laid out in this sector," the Russian official added. "We believed and we will keep believing that nuclear weapons are a factor of maintaining stability, international security and ensuring our safety. We believe other nuclear powers, including the US, stick to similar positions," Ryabkov said.

    A decision to release Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, jailed in the United States, would become a very significant step to improve Moscow-Washington relations, Ryabkov said.

    Yaroshenko, sentenced to prison for conspiring to import more than $100 million worth of cocaine into the United States, was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and handed over to the US authorities. The pilot has claimed he was mistreated while in US custody. Yaroshenko has also said his health suffered significantly as he is denied proper medical care.

    "We assume that actions to resolve this huge humanitarian problem, the decision to return Konstantin to Russia, for example within the framework of the United States implementing a possibility which is in the Council of Europe convention, would become a very significant step in direction of improving relations," the diplomat said.

    Moscow was not against the involvement of the United States in the Normandy format on Ukraine, but European countries rejected the idea, the deputy foreign minister said.

    "Expanding the Normandy format by involving the United States… you know, the Obama administration sought that, and we did not mind, but the Europeans did not want to," Ryabkov said.

    Relations between Moscow and Washington hit a low point after a foreign-sponsored coup in Kiev led to a civil war in Ukraine and Crimea's reunification with Russia. Other major points of contention included the Syrian conflict and NATO's eastward expansion.

    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (File)
    © AP Photo / Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA
    The Obama administration blamed Russia for allegedly meddling in the internal affairs of the United States by leaking information ostensibly obtained in high-profile cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 US presidential campaign. Moscow has repeatedly denied these claims, pointing out that Washington has failed to provide any evidence.

    Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated establishing a political dialogue with Moscow, particularly in regards to the fight against terrorism, and expressed readiness to build positive relations with Russia. Moscow has long been promoting the idea of fruitful cooperation with Washington.

    After the leaders' phone talks on January 28, the Kremlin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the presidents had noted the importance of respect in relations.

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    Tags:
    Normandy Format, nuclear weapons, New START Treaty, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Sergei Ryabkov, Konstantin Yaroshenko, Ukraine, Donbass, United States, Russia
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