The White House confirmed Tuesday night that President Trump will meet with Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
President Trump’s only scheduled meeting the day after he fired FBI director James Comey, will be a face-to-face with the highest-ranking Russian official he’s met with so far as president.
The meeting is entirely closed to press, the sixth day in the row President Trump has had no public, open press events on his schedule.
On Monday, it was announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Lavrov would meet in Washington Wednesday morning.
It will be their second in-person meeting in the little over three months Tillerson has been in office.
The visit by Russia’s long-time foreign minister is the first since August 2013, a sign of the high-stakes conversations between the two countries, even as Tillerson and others have said the relationship is at an all-time low.
Last week, Tillerson and Lavrov spoke by phone twice and Trump and Putin spoke once.
In reference to Tillerson’s meeting, the State Department said Wednesday’s agenda will include Syria, Ukraine, and other bilateral issues. The White House, however, did not elaborate further on Trump’s meeting with Lavrov.
In particular, Tillerson and Lavrov are expected to discuss the “de-escalation zones” inside Syria that Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to create last week.
Four areas in the civil war-ravaged country are supposed to be under ceasefire starting this week but it’s unclear how they are to be enforced or by whom, amid reports of some continued fighting within them.
The U.S. has expressed hesitant endorsement of the zones, wary of Iran’s involvement and the past failures at a ceasefire in Syria.
Trump often called for the creation of “safe zones” in Syria on the campaign trail as part of his opposition to admitting Syrian refugees into the country.
Tillerson himself made a mention of “interim zones of stability” in an address to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, but has offered few other details.
Following the announcement of Wednesday’s meeting between Tillerson and Lavrov, criticism of what it may not include was quick to follow.
There is concern that Tillerson won’t address the Russian hack during the 2016 election or stand strongly enough against Russian interference in Ukraine or its annexation of Crimea.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the Arctic Council ministerial summit in Fairbanks, Alaska where the two will be joined by the ministers of the Council’s six other countries to discuss scientific and environmental issues.
Source: ABC NEWS
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