WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump discussed the Syrian civil war with Russia’s foreign minister in the Oval Office on Wednesday, at a time when alleged ties to Moscow are overshadowing the Republican’s administration.
The meeting with Sergei Lavrov was the highest-level public contact between Trump and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin since Trump took office on Jan. 20.
Trump stunned the United States on Tuesday by firing FBI Director James Comey, whose agency is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the possibility Trump associates may have colluded with Moscow. Russia denies the allegations.
“We had a very, very good meeting with Mr. Lavrov,” Trump told reporters after the talks. “We want to see the killing, the horrible killing, stopped in Syria as soon as possible and everyone is working toward that end.”
Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. Trump said during his election campaign that he sought closer ties with Russia but tensions grew after U.S. air strikes against a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Assad.
Earlier on Wednesday, Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. As the pair posed for photographs, Lavrov sarcastically acknowledged the abrupt dismissal of Comey.
Asked by a reporter if the firing would cast a shadow over his talks, Lavrov replied in a sarcastic tone: “Was he fired? You’re kidding. You’re kidding.”