Washington, May 10 (EFE).- The president of the United States received Russia’s foreign minister at the White House on Wednesday amid the fallout from his surprising and controversial decision to fire his FBI director.
Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting with Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office – his highest-level contact with a Russian official since taking office on Jan. 20 – comes a day after the dismissal of James Comey, who had been overseeing an investigation into possible links between the Republican real-estate magnate’s campaign and the Kremlin.
As he did earlier Wednesday in a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov spoke with Trump about the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
Trump told the Russian foreign minister that the two nations needed to work together to end the years-old conflict in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are battling rebel forces, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State terror organization.
The US government said in late March that it would no longer focus on removing al-Assad from power, although its stance is less clear after it accused the Syrian leader of ordering a poison-gas attack on civilians in Idlib province that killed dozens of people.
Syria and its close ally Russia, whose forces helped Assad turn the tide against the rebels last year, have vehemently denied the chemical attack allegation and accused the rebels of carrying out what they say was a “false-flag.”
But the US responded to the alleged chemical attack by Damascus by firing cruise missiles last month at a Syrian air base, an action that soured seemingly improving US-Russia relations.
While renewing calls for Russia-US cooperation on Syria, Trump also emphasized the need for Moscow to rein in the Assad regime Iran, and Iranian proxies, the White House said in a statement.
Lavrov, who visited Washington to enlist US support for a Russian plan to create safe zones in Syria, said after the meeting that “concrete mechanisms that we can manage together” were discussed.
With regard to Ukraine, the White House statement said Trump stressed Russia’s responsibility for fully implementing the Minsk agreements, which, among other points, call for a full cease-fire between Ukrainian and separatist forces, the creation of a security zone in eastern Ukraine and a pull-out of all foreign armed formations.
After his conversation with Lavrov, Trump met at the White House with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Many Democrats slammed Trump’s decision to invite Lavrov to the White House after the firing of Comey.
They now say they will push for a special prosecutor to look into alleged Russian hacking and other interference in the Nov. 8 election, which Trump won after the disclosure by WikiLeaks of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, John Podesta.
The content of those e-mails caused some embarrassment to the DNC and to Clinton.
Russia has consistently denied interfering in the US election.