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Tillerson Sets First Visit To Moscow For April 12


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow on April 12 for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the State Department announced the trip -- Tillerson’s first to Moscow since becoming the top U.S. diplomat -- on April 4.

It was unclear whether Tillerson will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The State Department said the visit "is part of our effort to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed, including on next steps in Minsk implementation," a reference to the process for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Both statements said the talks would focus on global security, Syria, North Korea, Ukraine, and other issues.

The Russian statement added that Russia has "positively evaluated the new U.S. administration’s efforts to improve ties" with Moscow, but said it is necessary "to remove numerous irritants in bilateral relations, such as the arrests of Russian citizens by American special services in third countries, the violations of the rights of Russian adopted children in the United States, and the creation of artificial obstacles to hinder our diplomats from carrying out their duties."

U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned on pledges to improve strained relations with Russia. However, his administration has been dogged by accusations of improper contacts with Russia, which are currently the subject of several investigations.

Tillerson's visit comes as relations have been strained by an apparent chemical-weapons attack in Syria that the United States and others have blamed on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow has stood by its Middle Eastern ally and asserts Syrian warplanes struck a factory on the ground where chemical weapons were stored.

Two U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, wrote to Tillerson and urged him to meet with Russian civil-society activists during his trip.

"We feel strongly that democratically minded Russians should know that the U.S. supports their aspirations," the senators wrote.

Before his trip to Moscow, Tillerson will be in Lucca, Italy, on April 9-11 for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven world powers.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and TASS
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