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Trump meets with Russia's top diplomat

11 May 2017
Trump meets with Russia's top diplomat

US President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin's top diplomat at the White House on Wednesday, to discuss Syria and a wide range of global issues, a senior US official said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tillerson at the State Department before he was to head to the White House for talks with Trump.

Interestingly, the meeting also comes a day after the sacking of Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey, who was spearheading the probe whether the Trump campaign advisers colluded with Moscow to manoeuvre the election outcome.

But last week Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a discussion about Syria that the White House described as being "very good".

Comey was dismissed Tuesday, the White House announced, sweeping away the man who is responsible for the bureau's investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign team colluded with Russian Federation in its alleged interference in last year's election. "They will also discuss the prospects of the Syrian settlement on the whole", Suslov told TASS, adding though that the future of the Syrian President Bashar Assad "will be a hard matter to discuss".

For almost six years, Syria has been fighting foreign-sponsored militancy.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov would make a working visit to the United States on May 9-11 in line with Russia's agreements with the US. US intelligence agencies accuse Moscow of meddling to help Trump's chances of victory.

The White House says Trump emphasized his desire for better relations with Russian Federation.

Among other setbacks, Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, was forced to resign for lying to Vice President Michael Pence about whether he discussed lifting sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

What's unclear is how much Trump may still hope to build diplomatic momentum towards the kind of partnership with Putin that he repeatedly promised during the campaign.

Relations between the two former Cold War foes deteriorated under former president Barack Obama over Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its unyielding support for Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.

Initially, the top diplomats of the two countries planned a meeting on the sidelines of the Arctic Council, though later it was made a decision to hold the talks in Washington. But the administration has given no indication of direct support for the plan, which many Syria experts consider a ploy by Russian Federation to rid the four areas - all of which are now sites of conflict between Assad and rebel forces - of the rebels.

The United States welcomed the agreement reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey at the talks in Astana on May 4, to set up four de-escalation zones in Syria.

The U.S. has expressed hesitant endorsement of the zones, wary of Iran's involvement and the past failures at a ceasefire in Syria.

The zones would not cover areas where the US-led coalition is fighting Isis, but enforcement and other questions remain unanswered.

Despite the lack of clarity, the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Lavrov would in itself be a sign of some progress.