Mon, 21 Oct 2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is ready to break the stalemate in relations with the United States, but he says "Russophobia" among the U.S. establishment is blocking progress.

Lavrov, who travels to Berlin for talks with German leaders on September 14, told the German news agency dpa that 'we are ready to cover our part of the way to drive the mutual ties from the impasse" with the United States.

'We are taking seriously statements by [U.S. President Donald] Trump on [his] willingness to set up normal dialogue between our countries,' Lavrov added.

'If some positive impulses at all come from the U.S. leader, they are being fully offset by soaring Russophobia in the U.S. establishment, which sees our country as a threat to the U.S. political supremacy.'

Trump has pushed for improved ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin despite criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that he has not pressed Moscow enough on alleged meddling in U.S. elections and other issues.

Lavrov also said ahead of his talks with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, that the European Union should become more independent of the United States and should reject U.S.-led sanctions against Moscow.

The visit comes as tensions remain high between the West and Russia, with Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and other issues.

But Lavrov said in the interview that he sees a potential for improved ties with Germany.

"I would prefer not to characterize the relations between Russia and Germany as tense," he said.

"There are political divergences that bring some complicating moments into the structure of bilateral relations.

"But the common historical, cultural, and social convergences, the economy and, if you like, human wisdom, have established a foundation that enables the people of our countries to believe in a nice, predictable future -- one that can be made together."

He said that Western governments "have, over the past quarter-century, been attempting to confine Russia."

"This culminated in the internal political crisis in Ukraine in February 2014. I am optimistic that relations between Russia and Germany are continuing to develop even under these circumstances," he added.

Maas, the German foreign minister, said early on September 14 that he will use his meeting with Lavrov to warn the Kremlin of the danger that a planned major military offensive on the last Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib could turn into a human rights disaster.

'We all know what's at stake,' Maas said in an interview with dpa. 'This is about preventing the worst, namely a new humanitarian catastrophe.'

Syria's government has announced plans for a major offensive to drive the remaining rebels out of Idlib.

Russia and Iran have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial support throughout the country's civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

For Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government, retaking Idlib is crucial to completing what they seek: a military victory in the war that has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced millions.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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