President Donald Trump urged Russia to “rein in” Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad during a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the White House said on Wednesday.
“Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump had welcomed Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat to the White House for Trump’s highest level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since he took office in January.
Lavrov entered through the West Executive entrance, out of range for reporters to ask questions. Also attending was Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US who is at the center of many of the Trump administration’s early Russia-related woes.
The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted a photo of Trump and Lavrov shaking hands in the Oval Office, and another of Trump and Kislyak. The White House called reporters into the Oval Office around the time of the meeting, but Lavrov and Kislyak had already left. And in a surprise, Trump greeted the media with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
In brief remarks to journalists after the meeting, Trump said his decision to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey the day before his meeting with Lavrov did not affect the meeting “at all.”
Earlier Wednesday, Lavrov met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the get-together was a chance for the two to “continue our dialogue” and “exchange of views” that they started last month in Moscow. During that trip, Tillerson said relations with Russia were at a low and needed to be rebuilt.