U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who has been nominated to become Washington’s next ambassador to Moscow, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that an improvement in bilateral ties depends on Moscow’s “disavowal of efforts to undermine our democratic processes” and a commitment to peace efforts in Ukraine.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on November 23 that Sullivan met with the Russian diplomat on the sidelines of the Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting in Nagoya, Japan.
The statement said Sullivan and Lavrov discussed “a broad range of regional and bilateral issues, including international security challenges such as North Korea and Syria, as well as counterterrorism cooperation and strategic security.”
Sullivan reiterated “that improvement in the bilateral relationship is contingent on Moscow’s adherence to the Minsk agreements and disavowal of efforts to undermine our democratic processes.”
More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine after Russia provided assistance to separatists fighting against the forces of the central government in Kyiv.
Cease-fire road maps announced as part of the Minsk accords, sponsored by France and Germany and signed in the Belarusian capital in September 2014 and February 2015, have contributed to a decrease in fighting in eastern Ukraine but have failed to hold.
The meeting of the two diplomats was the first since President Donald Trump in October announced he had chosen Sullivan to be Washington’s next ambassador to Moscow.
If Sullivan, the No. 2 person at the State Department, is confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Jon Huntsman, who resigned in August amid speculation that he will run for the governorship in his home state of Utah.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Lavrov told reporters in Nagoya that “we know that John Sullivan is going through the approval process as the U.S. ambassador to Russia and we discussed how we should address numerous issues existing in our relations."
Separately, AP and Interfax reported that Lavrov said that Japan’s “military alliance with Washington, of course, is a problem” when it comes to changing the nature of the U.S. relationship with Russia.