US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
said on Thursday that Russia
must abide by a 2015 deal aimed at ending fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists as the Trump administration searches for ways to work cooperatively with Moscow.
The former Exxon
Mobil Chief Executive Officer (CEO) spoke after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
for the first time, in the highest-level face-to-face contact between representatives from the two countries since Trump took office on January 20.
annexed the Crimean Peninsula
in 2014, and Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine's began protests that escalated into a war, with thousands killed. A deal two years ago known as the Minsk agreement was intended to end the conflict, but skirmishes have continued.
"As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia
to honour its commitments to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in the Ukraine," Tillerson
said after talks with Lavrov.
Also today, US General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was set to meet with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. It was to be first meeting between the two countries' senior members of the military since Trump was sworn in.
has taken a low-key and reserved approach in his first two weeks on the job and declined the opportunity to speak with reporters travelling with him aboard his plane to Germany.
He did not respond to reporters' questions at his first three meetings in Bonn and, until Thursday, had yet to comment publicly on developments with Russia, its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election or its actions in Syria and Ukraine.
"As I made clear in my Senate confirmation hearing, the United States will consider working with Russia
where we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people," Tillerson
said following the Lavrov
"Where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies."
The meeting, on the sidelines of a larger foreign ministers conference in Germany, came amid turmoil inside the Trump administration over Russia
and the ouster of national security advisor Michael Flynn
over misleading White House officials on his contacts with Moscow.
Asked whether the chaos in Washington was a concern to Russia, Lavrov
replied: "You should know we do not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries."
In his opening remarks, Lavrov
said he and Tillerson
had "plenty of issues to discuss" and that they would "discuss and establish the parameters of our future work."
Trump chose Tillerson
for the job in part because of his business experience and relationship with Russia
while he was at Exxon.