THE Russian and US foreign ministers said in Manila yesterday that they had agreed measures to reduce soaring tensions.
Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines of the Asean regional bloc’s security summit in the Philippines’ capital on Sunday for the first time since the US Congress overwhelmingly voted for sanctions on Russia.
US President Donald Trump described the Bill, which targets the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, as “seriously flawed” last week when he grudgingly signed it into law.
Yesterday Mr Lavrov said Mr Trump’s special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker would travel to Russia to meet the Russian envoy to Ukraine peace talks Vladislav Surkov.
The White House appointed Mr Volker in July, and he made his first trip to Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region last month.
Mr Tillerson said Russia was showing “some willingness” to negotiate a resolution to the three-year conflict between the Kiev regime and anti-fascist forces in the self-declared Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
He said that while deep differences remained with Russia over Ukraine and other conflicts, it was unwise to “just cut everything off on one single issue.”
Mr Lavrov said that the two had agreed to resume contacts on security flashpoints between US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, suspended in light of the new sanctions.
Mr Tillerson asked Mr Lavrov “several clarifying questions” on Moscow’s ordered reduction of US embassy and consular staff by 755 to a par with the 455 Russia has in the US.
Extending the ceasefire with Western-backed jihadists in Syria was also discussed, although Mr Lavrov said “it will be difficult” to forge a truce around the city of Idlib, which is now controlled by the al-Qaida-affiliated Hetesh group.