'Was he fired? You're kidding': Russian FM Lavrov jokes about Comey firing

Tillerson Lavrov to meet in Washington on Syria and Ukraine

President Donald Trump has scheduled a White House meeting for late Wednesday morning with Vladimir Putin's top diplomat. But many have pointed to the fact that Comey was also in charge of an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian Federation.

Lavrov, who is on a working visit to the US from May 9-to 11 will first meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Ukraine, Syria and other bilateral issues, then proceed to his meeting with the President.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Tillerson and Lavrov will exchange views on key problems of the worldwide agenda and discuss topical issues of the bilateral relations at the upcoming talks.

The Russian diplomat steadfastly refused to weigh in on Trump's decision to fire James Comey, the former FBI director, who had been overseeing investigations of alleged Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion by Trump's campaign. "We have praised the constructive contribution the United States made at the last meeting", he said.

The Trump administration's decision to ban American journalists from the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak comes a day after a journalist in West Virginia was arrested for asking questions to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Trump "raised the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere", according to a White House statement.

The US was not part of a deal by government backers Russian Federation and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey, signed last Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana on establishing safe zones in Syria.

Less than a month into Trump's presidency, he fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying Flynn misled senior administration officials about his pre-inauguration talks with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador in Washington.

Trump made the comments right around the time the US launched missiles into Syria after a chemical gas attack that the USA blamed on the Syrian government.

Peppered with questions on Comey's firing during his brief media interaction at the State Department, Lavrov joked around. Tillerson and Lavrov have met twice, first in Bonn, Germany in February and again in Moscow in April. During that trip, Tillerson said relations with Russian Federation were at a low and needed to be rebuilt.

"On Syria, the secretary intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict", the State Department said in a statement Monday.

During his appearance with Tillerson, Lavrov feigned surprise when asked whether Comey's firing as Federal Bureau of Investigation director cast a shadow over the U.S. -Russia talks. The US and its allies in Europe also accuse Russian Federation of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by Moscow.

Lavrov has not visited Washington since 2013, a year before Russia's annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine.

Lavrov says American politicians who are raising questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election are damaging the US political system by suggesting it's being controlled by outsiders.

The Trump administration has been developing its own proposals to create stability zones in Syria, making it hard to argue against a plan that could ostensibly lower violence.

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