Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
12/10/2019 05:21 PM EST
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. Welcome, Sergey.
Before I recap the meeting that I had with Foreign Minister Lavrov and his team, I want to note that recently the Trump administration has taken actions against multiple human rights violators. It’s only appropriate I mention them on International Human Rights Day, which we celebrate today. These actions extend the Trump administration’s commitment to hold individuals accountable for gross human rights abuses all around the world. I’ll speak more about that tomorrow.
Now turning to our meeting. Last May, at President Trump’s request, I made a trip to Russia to meet with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov. The reason was pretty straightforward. We should have a better relationship – the United States and Russia – than we’ve had in the last few years, and we’ve been working on that since that moment. Our bilateral ties are, of course, complicated. We cooperate in some areas; in other places, we compete.
Over the course of my visit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I agreed to continue the hard work that diplomats engage in. We agreed to keep our lines of communications open and to keep our conversations candid as well.
Our talks today continued that. We touched on counterterrorism, counternarcotics. Our intelligence and law enforcement professionals cooperate in these areas on a daily basis and will keep doing so, and we’ll aim to make that cooperation even more refined and better.
On Syria, we are committed to working though UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to find a political solution to the crisis there in Syria. I think we agree that there’s no military solution and we both want to ensure that Syria never again becomes a safe haven for ISIS and other terrorist groups.
That same thing goes for Afghanistan as well, and we worked – talked about the cooperation that our two countries have had on the issues that face us in Afghanistan.
Today, too, we agreed on the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as our joint objective. I raised the importance of sanctions enforcement with Foreign Minister Lavrov today.
These are all good, positive areas where our two countries have cooperated and will continue to do so. There are other places where there are greater challenges.
Venezuela is one of them. The longer that Nicolas Maduro hangs on to power, the deeper the misery of the Venezuelan people. We’ve asked the Russian Government to support the aspiration for democracy and the legitimacy of Interim President Juan Guaido and the call that we have made for free and fair presidential elections.
We also spent a fair amount of time talking about Ukraine. It was a major part of our conversations. Foreign Minister Lavrov just returned from Paris, where President Putin and President Zelensky had substantive conversations. I’m proud of what this administration has done in the defense of that country’s sovereignty and security. I reiterated to Foreign Minister Lavrov that Crimea belongs to Ukraine and that the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine begins with adherence to commitments made under the Minsk agreements.
President Trump, too, is eager to pursue arms control with Russia and with China, and we talked about that at great length today. It has to be verifiable, enforceable, and include all the partners who have the ability to impact strategic security around the world.
And then, too, I had the chance to raise the issue of U.S. citizens like Paul Whelan who have been detained in Russia. Bringing home our citizens abroad as soon as possible is one of President Trump’s highest priorities. We had a success this past weekend.
And then on the question of interference in our domestic affairs, I was clear it’s unacceptable, and I made our expectations of Russia clear. The Trump administration will always work to protect the integrity of our elections, period. Should Russia or any foreign actor take steps to undermine our democratic processes, we will take action in response.
And finally, I want the Russian people to know that the sanctions the United States has leveraged – levied on Russian individuals and entities are in no way targeted at the Russian people. We have no quarrel with law-abiding citizens, and we’ll keep working on the diplomatic level to get this relationship right.
I want to thank you, Sergey, Foreign Minister Lavrov, for coming to Washington. I look forward to our continuing conversations in the future. Thank you, sir.