Interfax: Lavrov-Trump meeting focused on Syria de-escalation zones

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MOSCOW. May 15 (Interfax) – Syria was high on the agenda of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington DC.

“We worked together with [U.S. Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson for about two hours, and then spent less than an hour at the White House to extensively discuss Syria with U.S. President Donald Trump (as I have already said at a press conference in Washington DC) primarily from the angle of the groundwork laid last year and developed with the new administration,” Lavrov said in an interview shown in a Sunday program on Channel One.

It was agreed that Russia and the United States, together with Turkey, Iran and Gulf countries, “should influence various Syrian sides and encourage their diligent implementation of the UN Security Council resolution, which prescribes negotiations, elaboration of a new constitution, and preparation of elections,” Lavrov said.

“We see eye-to-eye with the Americans on this subject. Yet it is easier to agree on such things in principle than to put them into practice, considering the multiple ‘actors’ operating on the ground in Syria, first and foremost, the Syrian sides, ISIL [banned in Russia], Jabhat al-Nusra [banned in Russia] and those cooperating with it. So, special significance should be attached to separation, which we had agreed upon with the Obama administration and which, however, it failed to accomplish,” he said.

Lavrov said his conversation with Trump was centered on the establishment of de-escalation areas in Syria. “As you know, in furtherance of that agreement, we coordinated a memorandum with Turkey, Iran, the Syrian government and the armed opposition at the meeting in Astana a few days ago to establish such zones first in four Syrian regions, with a view to apply that practice to the rest of Syria’s territory in the future,” he said.

Lavrov also provided some details of the Moscow visit of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Tillerson’s visit to Moscow was important if only because it was the first in-person contact between the two foreign policy chiefs and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As it was our first contact, we spent a great deal of time discussing every item on our agenda as regards bilateral relations and everything that concerns global and regional affairs. The visit to Washington DC continued the conversation we started in Moscow,” he said.