Russia invites Trump officials to Syria talks

Moscow hopes for better relations with the United States based on respect for mutual interests once Donald Trump takes office.

Moscow hopes for better relations with the United States based on respect for mutual interests once Donald Trump takes office, in contrast with the “messianic” approach of the outgoing administration that has ravaged ties, Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Sergey Lavrov said that Russia and the United States can reach common ground on nuclear arms control and other issues if each country proceeds from national interests and shows respect for the other side.

He voiced hope that Trump’s team will consist of pragmatic people, “who will not engage in moralizing and will try to understand the interests of their partners just as they clearly uphold their own interests.”

Lavrov denounced the foreign policies of the outgoing U.S. administration and its allies as “messianic” attempts to enforce Western values on the rest of the world, which has led to instability and conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Russia-U.S. relations have plunged to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and other issues.

Lavrov said that Moscow is inviting representatives of the incoming U.S. administration to attend Syria talks on Monday in Kazakhstan, which have been brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

He voiced hope that Russian and U.S. experts could start discussions on fighting terrorism in Syria when Syrian government and opposition representatives meet.

Lavrov said that “we hope that the new administration will be able to accept that proposal,” adding that the talks in Astana will offer “the first opportunity to discuss a more efficient fight against terrorism in Syria.”

Asked to comment on Trump’s interview with the Times of London published Sunday in which he indicated that he could end sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to sit down for nuclear arms talks with the U.S.

He noted that he didn’t see Trump’s words as an offer to cut arms in exchange for cancelling the sanctions, rather as an expression of readiness to look at reviewing the sanctions while engaging in negotiations on arms control among other issues.

Lavrov also noted that Russia is ready to discuss arms control issues in a “businesslike way, realizing responsibility before our peoples and other nations.” He said that along with nuclear arsenals, the agenda for such negotiations should include new hypersonic weapons, missile defence, weaponization of space and other issues.

Lavrov rejected the allegations of Russian meddling into the U.S. elections as “absurdities” and “fakes” intended to hurt Trump.

He said that U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to produce any evidence to back the claims, adding that officials who engaged in the effort “deserve to be fired as they receive their salaries for nothing.”

Lavrov denounced a dossier on President-elect Donald Trump compiled by a former British spy as a “rude provocation,” contemptuously referring to its author as a “runaway swindler from MI6” without citing his name.

The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy who served in Moscow in the early 1990s. Trump has rejected the allegations as “fake news” and “phoney stuff.”

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