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Rex Tillerson and Sergey Lavrov held their first meeting since the US Senate voted to impose new sanctions on Russia, which responded with countermeasures. Lavrov said Moscow is ready for normalized relations if the US "pulls back from confrontation."
At a meeting on the sidelines of an ASEAN regional security summit in Manila, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the issue of Moscow's response to the new round of sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Sunday.
"He was interested, first of all, in the details of those decisions that we had been forced to take in response to the adopted anti-Russian bill passed by the US Congress," Lavrov said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
"We gave him the explanations," Lavrov told reporters following the meeting.
"Lavrov pointed out that the US law on sanctions against Russia has become another link in the chain of steps unfriendly and dangerous for international stability, striking a powerful blow to the prospects for bilateral cooperation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, published on its website on Sunday.
"Naturally, such actions, including the illegal retention of our diplomatic property since December of last year, could not remain unanswered, and won't be in the future. At the same time, we are ready to normalize our dialogue if Washington pulls back from confrontation," the statement reads.
The explanations echoed Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent interview with Rossiya 1 TV.
"He said it all there, explaining the reasons behind the decisions we made after long expectations that the US would not follow the path of confrontation," Lavrov said.
"But, unfortunately, the Russophobic attitude of the members of the Congress prevented this from happening," he said, as cited by Interfax.
Lavrov and Tillerson exchanged greetings and said a few words about their schedules for the coming days. After that, the press was asked to retire, but one American journalist managed to ask a question regarding Washington's new sanctions on Russia. Both senior officials chose to ignore the question, however.
Following the US House of Representatives' approval of sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on July 28 that Washington must reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people.
The US State Department responded to Moscow's move with regret, saying that it was an "uncalled-for act."
On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump signed the new sanctions bill targeting Russian gas and pipeline developments by codifying six of former President Barack Obama's executive orders implementing sanctions on Russia.
Retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski told RT earlier this week that the new sanctions are a clear attempt by Congress to tie the hands of the president, who publicly said he wanted to improve relations with Russia, and also stated that the new sanctions are short-sighted and ineffective as a foreign policy measure.
"It is intended to damage that relationship [with Russia]. I think it's important to see that this is a Congressional act intended to damage Mr. Trump and his ability to conduct foreign policy," Kwiatkowski said.
"They're certainly attempting to limit [Trump's] powers, and I think anybody who has watched American politics for the past six or seven months understands the panic that is present in our Congress amongst the opposition party and certain members of his own party. They're very frightened at his ability and desire to execute power, to use the power of that office," he said.
American businessman Paul Goncharoff told RT that if Trump was pandering to the American public as they wanted to see him authorize the sanctions then "it is a very sad state of affairs of what is America. It sort of underlines intolerance and lack of desire to get at what the truth is in fact."
However, some saw the meeting itself as a welcome sign.
"If nothing bad comes out of it, that's already good," political analyst Gilbert Doctorow told RT.
"The situation is one of jaw-jaw being better than war-war, and the meeting of Tillerson and Lavrov fits into that context - and only that context. Nonetheless, if this dialogue between Russia and the United States can hold back the dogs of war, can hold back the Pentagon and the deep state from perpetrating yet another false-flag operation in Syria or elsewhere, then we're doing very well. To hope for more I think is unrealistic."
"Given the rhetoric that's been coming out of the United States for the past week or so, it's a positive development," added journalist Martin Summers.
"Although there's many things about which there is no agreement, the situation has become much more tense as the result of these votes in the Congress and the Senate on the sanctions on Russia, that doesn't mean that some business can't be done," Summers said.
"And as we saw in the UN Security Council, there was a unanimous position on North Korea and the American side wants that sort of co-operation to continue. It's very disappointing that the political class in the US seem to have collectively lost its marbles and in this way, they've tied the hands of their own negotiators. And you don't usually do that if you've got any common sense, so that's stuck at a bit of an impasse."