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Rex Tillerson, Sergei Lavrov discuss damaged US-Russia ties


US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left, on front) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right, on front) hold a meeting on the sidelines of an ASEAN regional security summit in Manila on August 6, 2017. (Photo by Sputnik)

Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election has created "serious mistrust" between Washington and Moscow and damaged mutual ties, according to American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson made the remarks on Sunday after he held a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Manila, the Philippines, where they attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
The top US diplomat said he had warned Lavrov that the United States would respond to Moscow’s decision of expelling hundreds of American diplomats from Russia.   
"Russian meddling in the elections was certainly a serious incident. We talked about that in the discussion that we had with Mr. Lavrov yesterday," Tillerson told reporters.
"And trying to help him understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the US 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,” he added.
Lavrov asks US to pull back from confrontation
Following the meeting, Lavrov also spoke to reporters. He said Moscow is ready to normalize relations with the US if it “pulls back from confrontation.”
The Russian foreign minister said the US diplomat raised the issue of Moscow’s order of expelling diplomats in response to the new round of sanctions against Russia.
“He was interested, first of all, in the details of those decisions that we had been forced to take in response to the adopted anti-Russian bill passed by the US Congress,” he said. “We gave him the explanations.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, “Lavrov pointed out that the US law on sanctions against Russia has become another link in the chain of steps unfriendly and dangerous for international stability, striking a powerful blow to the prospects for bilateral cooperation,”
“Naturally, such actions, including the illegal retention of our diplomatic property since December of last year, could not remain unanswered, and won’t be in the future. At the same time, we are ready to normalize our dialogue if Washington pulls back from confrontation,” the statement read.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gives an opening statement during the ASEAN-US Ministerial meeting of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional security forum in suburban Manila on August 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US Democrats and intelligence agencies have accused Russia of attempting to swing last year's presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, the US president.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has mocked allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the US election, saying Democrats are playing a blame game to justify their defeat in the vote.
Trump last week warned that Washington's ties with Moscow are at a “very dangerous low," and blamed Congress for the situation, a day after he reluctantly signed into law a sanctions bill against Russia.
The bill imposes tough additional sanctions on Russia over Moscow's alleged meddling in the US presidential election and Crimea's reunification with Russia in 2014.
Trump signed the bill on Wednesday but strongly criticized it, calling the legislation "significantly flawed" with "unconstitutional provisions."
Putin meanwhile has ordered the US diplomatic mission in Moscow cut 755 diplomats and staff by September 1.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg on June 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

"I told the foreign minister that we have not made a decision about how we would respond to the Russian request to remove US diplomatic personnel," Tillerson said on Sunday.
"I asked several clarifying questions, just to describe the thinking behind that diplomatic note that we received, but I told them we would respond by September 1," he said.
Rifts widened between Washington and Moscow three years ago when a political crisis began in Ukraine.
The US and its allies in Europe imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea decided to join Russia while accusations have been leveled against Russia over its alleged support for pro-Russia forces engaged in fighting with the Kiev government in eastern Ukraine.
Ties hit fresh lows in December last year when then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses over reports of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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