Fresh from hours’ worth of talks with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that while US-Russia relations are at a “low point”, both countries had committed to trying to improve their ties and communication on a range of issues to avoid raising tensions between the two nations.
Mr Tillerson said during a press conference on Wednesday that he believed there is a “low level of trust” between the countries, adding: “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this relationship,” following a meeting with Mr Putin that lasted approximately two hours.
Mr Lavrov, Mr Tillerson’s Russian counterpart, echoed those sentiments, saying that while it had been a “long day”, negotiations between the countries have to be “open” and “substantial” as well as “frank.” A working group will be established to help improve communications on multiple issues between the two countries, the leaders said.
The meeting comes against a backdrop of sharp rhetoric between the two countries following US President Donald Trump’s surprise decision last week to launch missile strikes on Syria following a chemical-weapons attack.
Both sides dug into their positions, despite voicing a shared commitment to fighting international terrorism — Mr Lavrov said that Russia saw no proof Syria was behind the attack, and urged the United Nations to investigate the incident, while Mr Tillerson said the US remains “quite confident” that the chemical attacks were carried out by the ruling Syrian regime, and that in time the legal threshold might be reached for bringing legal charges against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
As the press conference went on, the rouble rose 0.5 per cent against the dollar.