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Trump’s top diplomat says he’s ready for better ties with Moscow

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Moscow and Washington’s top diplomats said Tuesday it was time to build better ties, ahead of the highest-level bilateral talks in nearly a year as President Vladimir Putin hosts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US President Donald Trump’s top diplomat arrived in the sunny Black Sea resort of Sochi amid a raft of disagreements, from arms control to the raging Venezuela and Iran crises.

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Pompeo’s visit to Russia — his first as Secretary of State — came as tensions mounted in the Gulf, with Iran and the United States engaged in a new war of words over Tehran’s nuclear deal.

At the start of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and before a planned evening meeting with Putin, Pompeo expressed hope the two rivals could “stabilise the relationship”.

“I am here today because President Trump is committed to improving this relationship,” he said.

“We have differences — each country will protect its own interests and look after its own people — but it’s not that we have to be adversaries on every issue.”

Lavrov said bilateral ties were in a “sorry state” and Russia was ready to turn the page over.

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“I believe it’s time to start building a new, more responsible and constructive model of mutual perception of each other,” he said.

“We understand that a lot of suspicions and biases have accumulated on both sides. We win nothing from this.”

Pompeo was all smiles and addressed Lavrov by his first name as they sat down for talks at a marble-floored spa hotel in the wooded outskirts of Sochi.

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Lavrov and Pompeo, each joined by a half-dozen aides, met for an hour and a half, according to a US official, before continuing the conversation over a late lunch.

– ‘Don’t hold your breath’ –

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Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the high-profile talks would change little in the US-Russia standoff.

“Don’t hold your breath: no pivot in sight, no breakthrough in offing,” he tweeted.


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Kurt Volker to ‘modify’ his testimony — and claim he was ‘out of the loop’ on Ukraine: NYT

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President Donald Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine will "modify" his testimony to Congress during televised hearings on Tuesday.

"Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that he was out of the loop at key moments during President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to turn up damaging information about Democrats, according to an account of his prepared testimony," The New York Times reported Monday.

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US embassy warned Ukrainians to ‘stay out’ of American politics : David Holmes testimony

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The House Intelligence Committee on Monday released explosive testimony from diplomat David Holmes.

Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy, testified about the "meddling" by Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

"I guess I would say that Giuliani was sort of meddling in Ukrainian affairs by asking them to open an investigation that would—could be perceived as meddling in U.S. politics," Holmes testified.

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Mike Pompeo called Sean Hannity and demanded he back up his allegations against Ukraine ambassador: report

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On Monday, the transcript of the testimony from foreign service officer David Hale was released to the public. And one of the most startling moments from the transcript was a claim that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called up Fox News host Sean Hannity and demanded he back up the claims he was making against former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch:

Reading through the David Hale testimony now, as one does when this is now their life, and apparently Sec. Pompeo called Sean Hannity and told him to produce evidence of the stuff he was saying about Amb. Marie Yovanovitch pic.twitter.com/d34iZrxBtG

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