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Trying to Bridge the Gap? Pompeo Meets with Russian Foreign Minister for the Second Time in Two Weeks

05-14-2019
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands after their joint news conference following the talks in the city of Sochi, southern Russia, Tuesday, May 14, 2019.(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands after their joint news conference following the talks in the city of Sochi, southern Russia, Tuesday, May 14, 2019.(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is overseas, spending the day in Russia.  He's working on shoring up a shaky relationship between the White House and the Kremlin.

The mood of the meeting could be characterized as cautiously optimistic. Pompeo sat down with his Russian counterpart hoping to overcome challenges of bridging the gap between them.

Pompeo capped off the day meeting with Russian President Vladamir Putin but spent most of his time with the country's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.   

He made the purpose of his first trip to Russia as secretary of state very clear.

"My meetings in #Russia will highlight a number of important topics. On some issues, we may agree, on others, we may disagree, but when it's in our national interests, it is our responsibility to find a way forward.," Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

"On our behalf, we have said it multiple times, that we also would like to rebuild fully-fledged relations," Putin said. 

"Let's try and see what happens," Lavrov said.

It was a pleasant beginning amid a tense situation. A drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline Monday with two Saudi tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel also sabotaged on their way to the US. Iran or its allies are the suspected culprits in both incidents.

This comes after Iran pulled out of a nuclear agreement and set a 60-day deadline for a new one.  

Nuclear talks have cooled between the US and North Korea while Pyongyang launched test missiles twice last week.

And the recent uprising in Venezuela, where Washington and the Kremlin are on opposite sides.

"But despite our disagreements, we'll keep talking," Pompeo told reporters. 

Perhaps about issues like Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

"I believe that an important dialogue for our success is to rebuild trust at all levels of our dialogue," Lavrov said. 

"It's not destined that we're adversaries on every issue and I hope that we can find places where we have a set of overlapping interests and can truly begin to build out strong relationships," Pompeo told the Russian delegation. 

Pompeo said some of those overlapping issues include counterterrorism, arms control, and nuclear proliferation. He's hoping these talks will put the two nuclear powers on the right path.  

"That I think would be good for not only each of our two countries, and each of our peoples but for the world as well," he said. 

This was the second meeting in two weeks between Pompeo and the Russian foreign minister.

The meeting was delayed after the Pompeo shifted Brussels for talks on the mounting emergency surrounding Iran with other world leaders.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again next month at the G20 summit.

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