14:31 GMT +321 May 2019
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    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands as they pose for a photo prior to their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, May 14, 2019

    Pompeo Leaves Russia With Arms Control Plan, Hope for Improving Relations

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    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed a range of security issues during separate meetings in Sochi, including the situations in Iran and Venezuela, and have agreed to take concrete steps on arms control while expressing hope for improving the bilateral relationship.

    During his visit to Sochi on Tuesday, Pompeo first met with Lavrov to discuss a wide range of security issues, with arms control topping the agenda. The two diplomats then held a joint press conference before Pompeo sat down for talks with Putin.

    On Arms Control

    • Lavrov and Pompeo discussed the prospect of extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START], as it is due to expire in February 2021, as well as the exit of both countries from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
    • The United States and Russia will assemble teams that will work on the potential extension of New START as well as discussions on a broader range of arms control matters.
    • The bilateral talks on arms control will continue in the coming weeks and might include China in a potential trilateral arms control deal.
    • "President [Trump] wants serious arms control that delivers real security to the American people, and we know, and I think we agree on this, to achieve these goals we'll have to work together, and it would be important if that's possible we get China involved as well," Pompeo told reporters.
    • During his meeting, Putin informed Pompeo that Russia is prepared to return to talks on missile defence and strategic arms reduction, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said.

    On Syria

    • Lavrov and Pompeo discussed the overall situation in Syria, paying attention to the recent escalation of tensions in the Idlib region.
    • The counterparts discussed the fight against terrorism, the return of refugees, and a political settlement in Syria.
    • Putin stressed to Pompeo the importance of respecting Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity. 
    • The US Secretary of State later told reporters on Tuesday that there is a chance to make progress on peace talks in Syria.
    • Pompeo said the political process associated with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 has been held up, and he thinks both counterparts can now mutually begin to work together in a way to unlock it and get the process to at least take the first step of forming a committee.

    On Venezuela

    • The United States and Russia will continue their dialogue in an effort to seek a resolution to the ongoing crisis despite disagreements over the leadership in the country, while agreeing to “find a way forward that ends the humanitarian and political crisis that is happening.” 
    • Lavrov said Russia wants the people of Venezuela to define their own future. “In this regard, it is extremely important that all responsible stakeholders in this country start a dialogue between themselves,” he said.

    On Iran

    • The US and Russian governments agreed to maintain dialogue on issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program with the hope that both sides will be able to work together to help facilitate certain agreements. 

    READ MORE: US Fundamentally Does Not Seek War With Iran — Pompeo

    • Pompeo told Lavrov the United States does not "fundamentally" seek war with Iran, but if American interests are attacked by Iran, the United States will "most certainly respond in the appropriate fashion.”

    On North Korea

    • Lavrov said Russia was "prepared to support" a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, with the ultimate goal of creating a "strong mechanism of peace and stability in Northeast Asia."

    On Relations Between Russia and US

    • The counterparts agreed to take practical steps to rectify the current tensions between the US and Russia on the basis of mutual respect and consideration of each other's interests in order to avoid a “negative impact on the global situation.” 
    • Lavrov said Russia and the US have already resumed dialogue on countering terrorism, adding that this should be followed by the implementation of other ideas, including the establishment of a non-governmental expert council that could help Moscow and Washington to overcome mutual distrust.
    • Lavrov said he handed Pompeo an unofficial memorandum on US Interference in Russia's domestic affairs.
    • Pompeo told Lavrov that “interference in American elections is unacceptable” and added that If Russia were engaged in election meddling in 2020, “it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.” Pompeo also noted that as the Mueller report is out of the way there is hope to restore relations.
    • "We should give [Mueller] credit. In general, he conducted an objective probe and confirmed the absence of any traces of collusion between Russia and the current administration, which we initially characterized as complete nonsense: there was no interference on our part in the elections in the United States at the state level, and could not be," Putin said.
    • Both Lavrov and Pompeo were not able to confirm a suggestion by Trump that he would meet Putin on the sidelines of a meeting of the G20 in Japan next month, however, the Russian President would agree to such a meeting if formally asked, a Kremlin aide told reporters.
    • "Today’s meetings were a positive step forward. The US and Russia have demonstrated in the past that we can cooperate on key international issues. We urge Russia to work with us to change the trajectory of the relationship for the benefit of both nations," Pompeo said.

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    Tags:
    New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, US-Russia relations, US-Russia dialogue, bilateral talks, Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), talks, Mike Pompeo, Vladimir Putin, Yury Ushakov, Sergei Lavrov, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Iran, China, Syria, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela
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