The newly appointed US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that he is ready ‘in principle’ to work with Moscow after meeting with his Russian colleague, Sergei Lavrov, on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany.
The meeting marks the highest level, face-to-face contact between Russia and US since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
In a short conversation with Lavrov, described by the latter as being ‘productive’, issues such as Ukraine and Iran were discussed. Tillerson reaffirmed US stance that Russia must respect the Minsk II agreement aimed at preventing further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.
At the same time, Tillerson expressed the willingness of the Trump administration to work closer with Russia on the issues of international terrorism.
Tillerson, regarded as an important ally of Vladimir Putin, had extensive business contacts with Russia in the energy sector, during his tenure as CEO of Exxon Mobile. His links with Russia have caused criticism among Democrats in the US, as well as other opponents of Trump’s administration.
Others have hoped that Tillerson’s ties with Russia will help restore US/Russia relations, currently on their lowest since the Cold War era.
Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to work with Russia in resolving the bloody civil war in Syria, and cooperate with Putin in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism.
The meeting between Tillerson and Lavrov comes at the time when Russia, Iran and Turkey are actively working towards driving peace process in Syria. Talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, on establishing a lasting ceasefire in Syria were held under Russian patronage, while the US has been reduced to the role of an observer.
It remains clear that Tillerson will have a particularly hard task of patching up US foreign policy in the Middle East. Russia, Iran and Turkey – increasingly drifting away from Washington following the failed coup d’etat attempt in July last year – have successfully marginalized US role in Syria.
Separate, UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria are due to resume on February 23 in Geneva.
Source/Image: The Guardian