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Tillerson Tells Lavrov Russia’s Election Meddling Created ‘Serious Mistrust’


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia's Sergei Lavrov face off behind their national flags in Manila.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he has told his Russian counterpart that Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election created “serious mistrust” between to the two countries.

Tillerson, speaking on August 7 on the sidelines of a regional forum in Manila, said he emphasized in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that interference in the elections was “a serious incident.”

"And trying to help him understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S. and the American people and the Russian people, that this had created serious mistrust and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that," Tillerson said he told Lavrov.

The chief U.S. diplomat also warned Lavrov the U.S. government was deciding on a response to the Kremlin's decision to order a substantial reduction in the size of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Moscow, a move made in retaliation for a new set of sanctions slapped on Russia by the United States.

He asked Lavrov "several clarifying questions" about Moscow retaliatory moves and warned his Russian counterpart that Washington would respond to the action by September 1.

Nevertheless, Tillerson said the United States still wants to work with Moscow and that it is “not useful” to cut all ties based on one issue.

Tillerson told reporters that Moscow had indicated "some willingness" to seek ways to move forward on matters related to Ukraine.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in March 2014 and for its support of separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Hours earlier, Lavrov said he believed his U.S. counterpart was ready to continue dialogue with Russia on complex issues despite the bilateral tensions and the imposition of the new U.S. sanctions.

"We felt the readiness of our U.S. colleagues to continue dialogue. I think there's no alternative to that," Lavrov said after what he said was a lengthy meeting with Tillerson.

U.S. President Donald Trump on August 3 said on Twitter that Washington's "relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low."

Those comments came a day after Trump signed the new sanctions against Moscow, a move Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said amounted to a "full-scale trade war" against his country.

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum, Tillerson also told reporters that the execution and implementation of new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea would be closely monitored and that the resolution sends a strong signal to Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council on August 6 approved a U.S.-written sanctions package against the North that could deprive it of $1 billion a year in export revenue.

He said the support of Russia and China for the sanctions was a strong sign to North Korea that the international community was united in its effort to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic-missile program.

"It's quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearised Korean Peninsula," he said.

Tillerson left open to the North Koreans the possibility of talks with the United States, but he insisted the regime must first end its missile tests, which are banned under previous UN resolutions.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, AFP, and AP
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