Press Availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Excerpts)

May 14, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Natalia Litovko, Russia 24 Channel. Question to both ministers about possible personal meeting between President Putin and President Trump. We see contradictory information there. Could you please clarify whether such a meeting will take place? We hear about Osaka, but is it planned and when and where?

A second question to Secretary Pompeo. You just came back from Brussels, where you discussed with your European colleagues the nuclear deal with Iran. Well, the latest news about possible relocation of troops to the Middle East – that sounds concerning. Does it mean that Washington chose a strategy of force against Iran? Are European leaders on board with you on that?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, naturally, we heard statements by President Trump that he expects to hold a meeting with President Putin, including during the G20 summit in Osaka. We heard a proposal. Well, if we receive such an official invitation, we’ll respond positively, and we talked about that today with Michael Pompeo.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me talk about my conversations in Brussels and then more broadly about the United States policy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran. So I went to Brussels to share with our European friends the threats and concerns we have about actions that the Iranians are taking or are potentially taking, and we wanted to make sure they understood the risks as we saw them, and I shared that with them in some detail.

As for our policy, it’s been consistent now for the entire Trump administration. And the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, now just over a year ago, made clear what our objectives are. We laid them out in May of last year. We’re looking for Iran to behave like a normal country, and that’s our ask. And we have applied pressure to the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve that.

We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran. We’re looking for the regime to simply stop conducting assassination campaigns throughout Europe, to cease their support of Hizballah that threatens interests all across the Middle East, their support for the Houthis that are launching missiles into areas where there are Russians and Americans traveling. These missiles could easily kill a Russian or an American. We laid them out in some detail. Our position hasn’t changed.

And the movement of troops that you described I’ll leave to the Department of Defense, but we’ve also made clear to the Iranians that if American interests are attacked, we will most certainly respond in an appropriate fashion.

MS ORTAGUS: Shaun Tandon, AFP.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you. Thanks for you time. I wanted to follow up on a couple of statements that you’ve said. First, for Foreign Minister Lavrov, you mentioned that despite the disagreements with Iran that there’s a possibility of certain agreements on Iran going forward. Could you explain what you see in common with the U.S. on Iran, where you can go?

Secretary Pompeo, if I could ask you about the mysterious incidents in the UAE, regarding the oil tankers, have you pinpointed responsibility for that? And if I could follow up on your statement about the election, you said that there are things that Russia could do to show that election interference is a thing of the past. What are those things? What do – what would you like Russia to do? Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) As for situation in Iran, Iran and JCPOA, on the settlement of Iranian nuclear issue, I hope that reason will gain the upper hand and that rumors about the ostensibly planned of 120,000 strong army of the U.S., what we spoke about today, is just a rumor. And Mike said that it’s a ministry of defense thing, and these are just rumors which are baseless, because this region is so tense with different conflicts and difficult situations. And on the margin, I say that we spoke about the future of Palestinian-Israeli settlement as well. I said that we hope to find a political solution to the situation around Iran. Indeed, we’ll try to facilitate for the situation not to tip over to the military scenario. And how we do it, that’s the task for diplomats. And I felt that the U.S. side has a commitment to finding a political solution.

The situation is a complex one. As you know, we did not support and we believe that it is a mistake that the U.S. decided to withdraw from JCPOA. And those measures that the U.S. Government is undertaking right now by introducing sanctions which prohibit to have any deals with Iran – you cannot buy oil; you cannot trade with Iran at all – I hope that we together, with our European colleagues, with our Chinese colleagues, who are also a party to the agreement on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will keep in touch with our American colleagues and try to find ways out of this crisis. Because right now we have only entered this spiral and we’re getting sucked into it.