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Tillerson, Lavrov To Meet In Washington For Ukraine, Syria Talks

On May 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) will meet his U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson (right) for the second time since the latter took office. (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Washington on May 10 to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as other bilateral issues, the U.S. State Department said.

The State Department announced the planned meeting in a May 8 statement, saying that the diplomats will "discuss the need to stop the violence in eastern Ukraine and resolve the conflict through the full implementation" of a peace deal known as the Minsk agreements.

Tillerson "intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict," the statement added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting in a statement on its website, saying that Lavrov and Tillerson would "exchange opinions on key international problems and relevant issues of bilateral relations."

The ministry did not specify what issues would be discussed during the meeting, which was originally slated to be held during an Arctic Council event in Fairbanks, Alaska, scheduled for May 10-11.

U.S. President Donald Trump said repeatedly throughout his election campaign last year that he would like to improve ties with Russia, including by teaming up to fight Islamic State militants in Syria.

But bilateral tensions remain due to both the civil war in Syria, where Russia is backing President Bashar al-Assad, as well as Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

After meeting Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last month, Tillerson said the two sides must try to end the "steady degradation" in bilateral relations in recent years.

Tillerson said in a May 3 speech that Trump and Putin had directed their respective top diplomats "to see if we can work together on the first big area of cooperation, which would be Syria, and can we achieve a ceasefire that will hold long enough for us to get a peace process underway."

"Both our presidents have charged us to take this further and see where we can go with it," he said.