WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Russia to “rein in” the Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers at a meeting with foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House, their first ever.
Trump also raised Ukraine with the Russians, the White House said in a statement, and “expressed his administration’s commitment to remain engaged in resolving the conflict and stressed Russia’s responsibility to fully implement the Minsk agreements”.
The president discussed the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Trump further emphasised his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia, the White House said.
The meeting received close attention, coming as it did the day after the president fired FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Trump campaign aides’ contacts with the Russians, specially ambassador Kislyak.
Meetings with Kislyak in December were what led to the dismissal of Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn, and to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigations.
To add to the strange optics, American media were denied access — the limited access White House pool reporters and photojournalists get to the start or ending minutes of such meetings — and the first pictures of Trump with Lavrov and Kislyak were released by the Russian foreign ministry.
It was widely noted and commented upon. “Americans are learning about what Trump is doing with Russia from Russia, not from the White House,” observed Axios news. “This strengthens the criticism that the Trump admin lacks transparency, especially when he hasn’t held a press conference on James Comey, who was in the middle of investigating Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.”
Trump later told the White House pool of reporters he had a “very, very good meeting” with Lavrov. He said both sides want to end “the killing — the horrible, horrible killing in Syria as soon as possible and everybody is working toward that end”.
Trump spoke to reporters of the press pool during the open-portion for his meeting with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Trump said he met with Kissinger to talk “about Russia and various other matters”.
“We’re talking about Syria and I think that we’re going to do very well with respect to Syria and things are happening that are really, really, really positive,” the president added.__Hindustan Times