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Russia Proposes Tillerson-Lavrov Meeting In Africa This Week

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) waves to the media next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the State Department in Washington in May 2017.

Russia has proposed that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week in Ethiopia, which both diplomats are scheduled to visit during trips to Africa.

Speaking on March 5, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there were a growing number of issues that it is "necessary" for the two countries to discuss.

Ties between Russia and the United States were severely strained since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea and stoked a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, and irritants have been piling up ever since.

The United States accused Moscow of “brutal” complicity in civilian deaths in Syria's eastern Ghouta region, saying on March 4 that Russian aircraft have flown bombing missions targeting the rebel-held enclave in defiance of a United Nations cease-fire.

Ryabkov said that the U.S. assessment of the situation in eastern Ghouta, that Syrian government strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians have caused an outcry, "did not correspond to reality."

President Vladimir Putin boasted in a speech on March 1 of new nuclear weapons he said Moscow was deploying, testing, or developing, and Russian officials have stepped up calls for talks with the United States on global-security issues since then.

Ryabkov said it was not yet clear whether the schedules of Lavrov and Tillerson would allow for a meeting.

"But we believe such contact would be useful. The questions that must be discussed are only growing," he said, adding that Russia has proposed a meeting and is awaiting an answer.

Lavrov will be in Ethiopia on March 9 during an Africa tour that began on March 5 and was also taking him to Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

On his first official trip to Africa, on March 6-13, Tillerson is planning to visit Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

With reporting by TASS
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