U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday he believes Washington and Russia can find a way to ease tension, saying it wouldn’t be useful to cut ties over the single issue of suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Tillerson said Russia had also expressed some willingness to resume talks about the crisis in Ukraine, where a 2015 ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country is regularly violated.
“We should find places we can work together… In places we have differences we’re going to have to continue to find ways to address those,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of an international gathering in Manila on Sunday, where he also asked about Moscow’s retaliation to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.
The meeting was their first since President Donald Trump reluctantly signed into law the sanctions that Russia said amounted to a full-scale trade war and ended hopes for better ties.
“We talked about it in the discussion we had with Minister Lavrov yesterday — and trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the US and the American people and the Russian people,” Tillerson said.
“(I said) this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.”
Moscow has consistently maintained that it did not interfere in last year’s US general election, rebutting claims by multiple American intelligence agencies.
Speaking Monday, Tillerson said he discussed the pending removal of consular staff with Lavrov: “I told the foreign minister we had not made a decision regarding how we will respond to Russia’s request to remove US diplomatic personnel.”
Tillerson said he would respond to the matter by September 1, adding that the US and Russia should find ways to work together.
“We have our differences, we’re going to have to continue to find a way to address those,” he said.