U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday he believes Washington and Russia can find a way to ease tension, saying it wouldn't be useful to cut ties over the single issue of suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Tillerson said Russia had also expressed some willingness to resume talks about the crisis in Ukraine, where a 2015 ceasefire between Kiev's forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country is regularly violated.
"We should find places we can work together... In places we have differences we're going to have to continue to find ways to address those," Tillerson told reporters.
Tillerson met his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of an international gathering in Manila on Sunday, where he also asked about Moscow's retaliation to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Meanwhile, top U.S. diplomat also said that the Trump administration has yet to decide how to respond to Russia's move to expel hundreds of American diplomats, but plans to deliver a response to Moscow by Sept. 1.
"These are two very large countries and we should find places that we can work together, let's try to work together. Places we have our differences, we're going to have to continue to find a way to address those." Tillerson also said that Russia has been showing "some willingness" to start talking about a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, devoid of real progress for years.
According to Tillerson, the two countries had critical national security issues to discuss despite deep disagreements on some matters.
"I don't think it is useful to just cut everything off on one single issue," Tillerson said.
The meeting was their first since President Donald Trump reluctantly signed into law the sanctions that Russia said amounted to a full-scale trade war and ended hopes for better ties.
Lavrov on Sunday said he believed his U.S. colleagues were ready to continue dialog with Moscow on complex issues despite tensions.
Tillerson said he discussed Russia's suspected meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with Lavrov to "help them understand how serious this incident had been and how seriously it damaged the relationship" between the two nations.
But Tillerson said that should not irreversibly damage ties.
"The fact that we want to work with them on areas that are of serious national security interest to us, and at the same time having this extraordinary issue of mistrust that divides us, that is just what we in the diplomatic part of our relationship are required to do," Tillerson said.
The United States sent its special representative on Ukraine, Kurt Volker, a former U.S. envoy to NATO, to Ukraine last month to assess the situation in the former Soviet republic.
Washington cites the conflict as a key obstacle to improved relations between Russia and the United States.
"We appointed a special envoy to engage with Russia but also coordinating with all parties. This is full visibility to all parties. We are not trying to cut some kind of deal on the side," Tillerson said.
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