US President Donald Trump was to receive Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov at the White House, even as a political firestorm has put Moscow's alleged meddling in the US election back in the spotlight.
In 2014, Russian Federation annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, drawing widespread condemnation in Europe and the United States. When a reporter shouted a question about the firing, Lavrov replied, "Was he fired?"
Earlier, when Lavrov arrived at the State Department to meet Tillerson, he cracked a joke about Comey's firing, answering shouted questions from reporters by saying: "Was he fired?".
Russia's top diplomat met President Donald Trump on Wednesday and praised the USA administration as problem solvers, just as the White House drew criticism over the firing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation director who was leading a probe into Moscow's alleged interference in US politics.
After Tillerson visited Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, Trump said flatly, "Right now we're not getting along with Russian Federation at all". But the Russians' visit to the White House also came as the Kremlin made its first public comments on Comey's removal. FBI Director James Comey exit is the latest high-profile exit since Trump took over, Michael Flynn having been forced to resign after it emerged he misled the administrations about his pre-inauguration talks.
Russian Federation brokered a deal for de-escalation zones with backing from Iran and Syrian opposition supporter Turkey during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital Astana last week.
President Donald Trump today asked Russian Federation to "work together" with the United States to end the Syrian conflict and underscored the need for Moscow to rein in the Bashar al-Assad regime there, and Iran and their "proxies".
"I don't doubt that the Russians are hacking us". "The president further emphasised his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russian Federation", the White House said. "He was sacked? You are kidding!"
POLITICO notes that Trump considered firing Comey for over a week as he grew enraged over the Russian Federation investigation, according to two unidentified advisors.
"We had a very good conversation with Minister Lavrov",- quote the media.
A main focus is Syria, where both governments want to end a civil war that has killed up to 400,000 people, contributed to a global refugee crisis and allowed the Islamic State group to emerge as a global terrorist threat.
The top diplomat added Russian diplomatic property issue was discussed in Washington. The U.S. isn't party to the deal and has reacted cautiously, especially given its misgivings about Iran's role.
"We believe the U.S.is really interested in that", Lavrov said, acknowledged details of the plan still needed to be worked out.
Putin and Trump already had discussed a July meeting during a phone call in the past week.