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US, Russia test tense ties as Pompeo visits Putin

AFP  |  Sochi 

Russian on Tuesday meets US in the highest-level talks between the rival powers in nearly a year as they see if they can make headway on a raft of disagreements from to to arms control.

Pompeo will visit Putin in the resort of Sochi less than two weeks after voiced optimism about improving relations with during a more than one-hour with the Russian leader.

The renewed diplomacy followed the long-awaited report in the by which found that interfered in the 2016 election but that the Trump campaign did not collude with Moscow, partially lifting a cloud that had hung over the mogul-turned-for two years.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking US to see Putin since July when Trump met him in and stunned the US political class by appearing to accept the Russian leader's statement at face value that he did not meddle in the US election.

Trump on Monday announced that he expected a "very fruitful meeting" with Putin and Chinese counterpart at the summit in Japan, only for Kremlin to deny had requested such a meeting and say there were "no agreements so far."

Trump's enthusiasm for courting Putin has little support in Washington, even within his own administration, which has kept up a campaign of pressure including sanctions on over alleged election meddling and Moscow's support for armed separatists in

Pompeo, despite his close relationship with Trump, left little doubt on where he stood in remarks Saturday in

Addressing the conservative Claremont Institute, Pompeo said that US policymakers in recent decades had "drifted from realism" and chastised them for believing that "enfolding the likes of and into a so-called rules-based international order would hasten their domestic evolution towards democracy." "But we can see now 30 years on, after the end of the Cold War, that the Putin regime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbours," Pompeo said, three days before he sees the Russian president.

Pompeo cancelled a stop in scheduled Monday to meet with European foreign ministers in Brussels, who have been uncomfortable with the hawkish direction of the United States, especially on

The has pulled out of a nuclear deal backed by the Europeans, Russia and and instead has slapped sweeping sanctions on in an all-out effort to curb Tehran's regional clout.

In recent days the has ramped up the pressure by deploying to the region an group and nuclear-capable bombers, warning vaguely of imminent threats from Iran, which UN inspectors say is complying with the 2015 accord. Russian said he would have a "frank conversation" with Pompeo on Iran on Tuesday, saying he expected the top US was pressuring the Europeans to reject Iranian overtures for relief from US sanctions.

"We will try to clarify with Pompeo how the Americans plan to get out of this crisis, which was created by their unilateral decisions," Lavrov told reporters as he met his Chinese counterpart in Sochi on Monday.

Both the United States and Russia hope to make some progress on arms control, with seeking a five-year extension of the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits and is set to expire in 2021.

"As before, we are ready to discuss this topic with the Americans," Lavrov said. But negotiations could be tough, with Trump calling for the treaty to be expanded to include a rising

The earlier this year pulled out of another key arms control agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, with NATO allies saying a new Russian missile system was in violation.

Deputy voiced hope that Pompeo's visit would build on the telephone call with Trump and "somewhat stabilise" the relationship. But he acknowledged that talks could be "very difficult" on

"The positions of the two sides are diametrically opposed, but we should still use the opportunity to let our position be known to the US administration," the agency quoted Ryabkov as saying.

The United States has been trying for more than three months to topple President Nicolas Maduro, a leftist firebrand whose re-election was widely criticised for irregularities, and Pompeo has repeatedly blamed Russia for giving him a lifeline.

Trump, however, contradicted Pompeo after his phone call with Putin, saying the Russian president assured him that Moscow is not involved in

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 14 2019. 08:40 IST