Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has renewed its invitation for the incoming US administration of president-elect Donald Trump to join the Syria peace talks on 23 January 2017.
The peace talks, brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey without any input from the US, are scheduled to take place in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The event would represent the first time that American and Russian officials would formally meet following Trump's presidential inauguration on Friday (20 January).
"We consider it right to invite representatives of the UN and the new US administration to take part in it," Lavrov told the press on Tuesday (17 January), renewing an invitation first made in December.
"We expect that the new US administration will be able to accept this invitation and will be represented by its experts at any possible level," the foreign minister added, expressing his hope that the meeting would be a platform to discuss further measures to fight terrorism in Syria.
Lavrov also denied reports that Trump would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Iceland in July.
During the two-and-a-half-hour annual press conference, Lavrov also responded to Trump's offer to reconsider sanctions against Russia in exchange for a reduction of nuclear armament. Lavrov said Russia is willing to have a dialogue with the US on strategic stability, encompassing the fight against terrorism and nuclear weapons, including hypersonic weapons, a US missile shield in Europe, space weapons and nuclear testing.
In an interview published on The Times newspaper on 16 January, Trump is quoted as saying: "Let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that's part of it." He added: "But Russia's hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit."
Trump has repeatedly expressed his intention to have better relations with Russia than President Barack Obama administration did. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" he said in a tweet on 7 January.
In the past, Trump had said the US must "greatly strengthen and expand" its nuclear capability until "the world comes to its sense regarding nukes". The statement was made in apparent response to a speech delivered by Putin on 22 December, in which the Russian president urged "to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces".
Throughout the press conference, the Russian foreign minister repeatedly criticised the Obama administration approach to relations with Russia, but believed there are good foundations for working together with the incoming government. "Trump wants each country to be responsible for its own development. This is in line with our approach," said Lavrov.
Even when asked about Trump's pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson, who called Russia a danger during his Senate nomination hearing, Lavrov did not change his stance on the future of US-Russia relations.
Lavrov said he listened to the hearing, and emphasised a point Tillerson made about Russia being "not unpredictable in promoting its interests." According to him, this shows that Tillerson is willing to deal with Russia's interests pragmatically, without making moral judgements as to their choices. "If you focus on finding common ground and shared interests, you can address many issues," Lavrov said.