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CONNECT THE WORLD
Pompeo to Meet with Russian President Putin; U.S., Russia Pledge to Work Toward Better Relations; Pompeo and Lavrov Meet in Sochi Amid Iran Tensions; Saudi Arabia; Two Oil Pumping Stations Attacked by Armed Drones; Iran Says Suspicious Actions Meant to Create Tensions; Facebook and WhatsApp Monitoring Election for Fake News in India; Pompeo and Lavrov Hold Press Conference. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 14, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Well it's 7:00 p.m. here in Abu Dhabi, 7:30 over in Tehran. It is 6:00 in Sochi, in Russia, 11:00 in the
morning in D.C. Hello, and welcome, I'm Becky Anderson. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. And there is a lot going on this hour.
We begin with that breaking news. A reset of U.S./Russia relations appears to be underway at this hour at a high-level talk in Sochi in Russia.
Waiting for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet anytime now with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pompeo in a working lunch with Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov after they agreed to a new level of cooperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I believe it is time to build a new more constructive and responsible metrics of our
mutual perception. We are prepared to do that if our U.S. colleagues and counterparts are ready to reciprocate that.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm here today because President Trump is committed to improving this relationship. As I think you said, we
have differences. Each country will protect its own interests, look out for its own interests of its people. But it's not destined that we're
adversaries on every issue. And I hope we that we can find places where we have a set of overlaps interest and can truly begin to build out strong
relationships at least on those particular issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Which means what? There is a whole lot more on the table than bilateral relations. Iran, a huge focus as the U.S. steps up its rhetoric
and a growing tensions over mysterious reported attacks on oil tankers and now two oil pumping stations in this, the Gulf region.
Connecting the dots is what we do best on this show. We're covering this story from all angles. Matthew Chance is in Moscow. Fred Pleitgen is in
Tehran for you. Nic Robertson is our international diplomatic editor, tonight in the strategic Emirati port of Fujairah. Close to where four
commercial ships were reportedly attacked off the coast of the UAE on Sunday. And Kylie Atwood is our U.S. security reporter in Washington for
I want to get to Nic. And before we discuss, Nic, what is physically going on right here in region. Iran as we've suggested likely to dominate these
talks in Sochi in Russia. What does the U.S. want from Russia and Putin at this point?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, Russia is in a position that perhaps the United States could take advantage of. Because
it has a closer relationship with Iran because their forces are working together if you will inside Syria in this region. But I think what the
United States wants to do, it wants to isolate Iran and clearly, it's trying to do that by leveraging over its European partners. There's a
major difference of opinion there. It's using military leverage and muscle in the region here, by implication, not by actual use of force, to try to
bring along with economic sanctions Iran to the negotiating table. Not just over nuclear weapons but over ballistic missiles, over its sponsorship
of terrorism throughout the region. Which is how the White House sees Iran's role in the region.
So it would like to see the Kremlin bend to that view. That seems very unlikely. But what Secretary Pompeo will want to do is to clear the ground
at least so when President Trump meets with President Putin at the G20, they can have a constructive and maybe productive dialogue. They keep
meeting but there's little product. And perhaps this is a foreshadow of how they might in the speculation and hope of Secretary Pompeo paper over
some of their differences and work on where they have common ground.
ANDERSON: Sure. All right. The UAE and Saudi, America's main allies in this Gulf region, both supporting the Trump administration's efforts to
isolate Iran. To push back against what they see as Iran's malign influence in this region. Let's discuss then what Riyadh is calling a new
act of cowardly terrorism.
[11:05:00] It says armed drones attacked two oil pumping stations belonging to Saudi Aramco today, causing minor damage. Iranian backed Houthi rebels
in Yemen claiming responsibility. Houthi run TV aired this footage to showcase their alleged drone capabilities. Nic, what do we actually know
about these new reported attacks?
ROBERTSON: We don't know that the Houthis actually committed them. They are claiming them. They have claimed to fire Scud missiles toward Riyadh
before. And Riyadh has shown Scud missiles that it said the Houthis have fired at them. You know, I think until somebody can get their hands on
that drone and examine it, we're not going to know precisely where it came from.
What we do know is that this strategic pipeline was installed in Saudi Arabia particularly to head off acts of terrorism. To allow it to be able
to export oil from either coasts of the country. It was to create sort of a separate path to get the oil out of the country if one line to the east
had been heavily damaged.
So we're not very far forward in knowing substantially who is responsible for this particular incident, but it does come on the back of a long line
of Houthi attacks in Saudi Arabia. And for what we understand, less reported efforts toward the United Arab Emirates as well.
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Fujairah for you. Kylie Atwood's in Washington. I want to get to you. Iran deny any involvement with the
reported sabotage attacks on those four oil tankers off the coast from where Nic Robertson is reporting tonight. One was Norwegian, one Emirati
and the other two Saudi. The UAE says it's asking the United States to help investigate. Not just for technical assistance but also to send a
message. Kylie, what is that message and what do we know about the investigation so far?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY REPORTER: Well, if the emirates are able to pull in the U.S. to this investigation which they already have and the
U.S. has agreed to partake in as well as potentially other countries. A UAE official told me that they could also be asking the Brits and the
French to partake in this. Then there is more momentum, there is more of a signal that this is the world investigating sabotage that is suspected to
be from the Iranians.
However, there is no official report that it is the Iranians. But it gives some more bang to their buck that it's not just the Emirates pointing their
finger at the Iranians.
The other thing to consider here is that as the U.S. is bulking up their military presence in the region, this also gives the U.S. some allies if
they are able to work with the Emirates to find some proof who was behind this sabotage attack. A UAE official explained to me that this would
legitimize what the Emirati's have been finding. The intelligence they've been sharing with the U.S. government regarding the escalation of possible
attacks from Iran in the region. That's why we've seen the U.S. move and bulk up what we see as their military presence there.
ANDERSON: Yep. No claim of responsibility as of yet. We know we have been promised the results of this investigation relatively soon. Kylie,
more news state-side. The "New York Times" reporting that the White House is considering a plan to send 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East. What
more can you tell us at this point?
ATWOOD: A U.S. official confirmed to me that the Trump administration senior officials last week did meet about the possibility of sending troops
to the region. Now, we have not confirmed that 120,000 troop number that the "New York Times" is running with.
But you have to consider this. The military is always planning for contingencies. But the thing is here that the NSC, National Security
Council, directed by John Bolton who is a very hawkish actor in the Trump administration is the one asking for these plans.
So what we need to find out more on is what the U.S. would do if Iran does, in fact, break out from the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, and start
developing its nuclear program, or is it goes after U.S. troops in the region.
[11:10:00] A senior administration official was asked last week by a few reporters what the Trump administration would do if Iran does break out of
the nuclear agreement and develop its program. Would the U.S. go after Iran's nuclear facilities. That administration official said basically all
options are on the table and President Trump isn't going to cut out any of those options at this time. So it is possible. We do have a President who
does not want to get into wars, we know that. But we also have him surrounded by some hawks who are interested in really going after Iran for
its aggression in the entire region.
ANDERSON: Kylie's in Washington for you. Thank you. I want to bring in our man in Moscow now, CNN's Matthew Chance. Matthew, we just received
some images of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov. These were earlier today. We should hear from them this
hour in just about 20 minutes, I'm told. Iran clearly front and center as we've been reporting for Pompeo. What do the Americans want out of this
meeting with the Russians, and are they likely to get it?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends. If they're looking for areas of cooperation -- and that's what Mike Pompeo
said in his remarks when he first arrived in Sochi. That city in southern Russia. When he was sitting across there in these pictures from Sergey
Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, he said, look, we don't have to be adversaries on every issue. There are differences between us, to
paraphrase him. But there are areas when we can cooperate. Then he talked about counter terrorism and he talked about arms control. And indeed I
think he will be getting a sort of positive reception if it comes to cooperation in those areas from the Russian side.
But when it comes to the whole host of other issues that stand between Russia and the United States, then there are miles between the two sides.
Whether it's the issue of election meddling by the Russians, which the Russians categorically deny. Support for the regime in Syria, both the
United States and Russia are on opposite sides of the conflict there, opposite sides of the crisis in Venezuela, in North Korea as well. There's
a big difference of opinion.
And crucially on that issue of the day, the issue of Iran, Russia is of course a very close ally indeed with Iran. They fight side by side on the
ground in Syria in support of their joint Syrian governmental ally Bashar al-Assad. Russia provides military technology, nuclear technology in terms
of its power stations to Iran. It supplies diplomatic and political support as well. As well as being one of the countries that signed that
nuclear deal with Iran, along with the other members of the security council, plus Germany. And has been very reluctant to see that deal broken
and is opposed to it.
It's also under U.S. sanctions alongside Iran and is fundamentally opposed to the expansion of American influence or Western influence more generally
in the region.
And so, if this is about driving a wedge by Washington between Moscow and Tehran, I think it's going to be very difficult to see Mike Pompeo make any
progress in that regard -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Joining the dots as we look at the story in play this hour. Thank you. I want to get you to Tehran now. Fred Pleitgen is standing by.
Iran says it is concerned by what it calls suspicious actions and sabotage in the region. Saying it actually predicted that such acts would occur to
raise tensions, alluding to the four vessels alleged to have been sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday. The Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif also
talked about the recent U.S. warnings to Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: But unfortunately the United States has been escalating the situation unnecessarily. We do not
seek escalation but we have always demanded that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well that's Zarif. What else is Iran saying at this point -- Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Iran is continuing to be highly critical, Becky, of the United States and its
position. It's quite interesting to see. Because you have Iranian officials who seem to be towing a more moderate line and all of this. You
just heard from Javad Zarif who spoke earlier today in India. Where he's currently on a visit. Saying that the Iranians certainly don't want any
sort of escalation at this point. But on the other hand you also have Iranian military officials who have a lot more bellicose rhetoric.
Now the Iranians are saying that the lot of things that the U.S. has been saying about Iran's behavior is simply not true. They say they don't want
an escalation of the situation.
[11:15:00] They certainly say any sort of indications that for instance they were behind any of these sabotage attacks that took place in the
Persian Gulf are not true. And it's something the Iranians have condemned themselves. They accuse the Trump administration -- the White House
specifically -- of being engaged in a campaign of what they call psychological warfare against Iran. In fact, earlier today Iran's
ambassador to the U.N. spoke to our own John Berman. And here's a part of what he had to say. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI, IRAN'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: These are all psychological warfare in our opinion. We are not in the business of
trying to create a conflict in our neighborhood. Because nobody is going to have benefits from such a conflict in our region except for a few, as I
explained earlier. Some people in Washington and some countries in our neighborhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: That's Iran's U.N. ambassador speaking there. But on the other hand you do have, as I said, some pretty bellicose rhetoric coming for
instance out of some of the Iranian generals from the Revolutionary Guard but also the regular military as well.
The head of Iran's navy coming out late last night and saying -- or calling the deployment of that Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln,
to the area around the Persian Gulf. Calling that theatrical and saying that the Iranians would be ready to respond to that. He also accused the
United States of what he said was trying to start enigma of war in that region.
But certainly we've heard from Iranian commanders who have said, look, a lot of American bases in that region are within range, as they say, of
Iran's missiles. And they say that even aircraft carriers would not be safe from the Iranians. So certainly on the one hand you have Iranian
officials who are saying they don't want an escalation to take place, but you do also have the Iranian military saying they would very much be ready
to take on the U.S. if there was an escalation coming from that side.
So certainly still a very dangerous situation that we can see here in this region, specifically of course focusing around that area where we just saw
Nic Robertson before, around the area of the Persian Gulf and of course a Strait of Hormuz as well -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran. We've been in Moscow and Washington, Tehran and Fujairah for you today just off the Gulf of Oman,
just south of the Strait of Hormuz.
Back to Moscow just for a moment. I'm just showing you images of the room that we will shortly hear from Mike Pompeo and Sergey Lavrov. You see the
flags. That is Sochi in Russia. Iran, we know, front and center in these discussions that the U.S. is having there in Russia with Moscow. All
right, back to that news conference as and when.
Still to come tonight, it has more than 1.5 billion users. Now WhatsApp is warning all of them their phones could be at risk from hackers. I'm going
to get you the very latest on that story after this.
[11:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANDERSON: 7:20 in the UAE. You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me Becky Anderson from our Middle East broadcasting hub here at
It's an app that you may have used already today a number of times. So you may be shocked at the next story. I'm talking about WhatsApp. The
messaging platform warning of a flaw in its system that could allow hackers access to your phone. The Facebook owned app says a private company was
behind this attack. Good news, WhatsApp found a fix for the program and it is now urging users to update the software immediately. Check
correspondent Samuel Burke joining us now with more. What is going on here?
SAMUEL BURKE, CNNMONEY BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Becky, this is absolutely incredible. Think of everything you do throughout the day
where this device is present, iPhone or Android. Almost everything you do your phone is around. And what researchers have found here is that via
WhatsApp a private group has been able to install software that uses the microphone and the camera on your device. It has all the potential to not
only be listening to you but looking at you.
And the way this software gets on your phone is through a seemingly invisible phone call via WhatsApp. You wouldn't have heard the phone ring
and you may not even see it in your call logs. And with that they're able to get the software in. You talk about that fix that WhatsApp has now.
I'm just going to put this very important information up on the screen. Because you need to update WhatsApp immediately so that you're not a target
of this type of software -- potential target we should say. So if you have an iPhone you see the directions there. If you have Android you see the
directions bottom. At the end of the day you just need to make sure this app is updated. I'll tweet out the information and I'm sure you will as
well -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. I'm looking on my phone as we speak in fact. All right, thank you for that. Meanwhile, WhatsApp playing a crucial role
in India's general election. Voters using the app to keep them informed on what is real and what is fake on social media. CNN's Nikhil Kumar reports.
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): As India votes, a typical village scene in northern Uttar Pradesh state, a post-launch huddle
about who might win. These men are discussing the latest political news, their main source, messages and post on Facebook and WhatsApp.
PRAVEEN TYAGI, INDIAN VOTER (through translator): We only use WhatsApp and Facebook, that's the internet for us, and with the election my phone is
flooded with political messages.
KUMAR (on camera): Almost everyone we've spoken to in this village has a phone and they're often relying on the messages they see there, the
politically themed videos and memes to decide who gets their vote. It's their main source of news, the electoral battleground it's in their hands.
(voice-over): But the terrain is murky, littered with fake news that can sometimes prove fatal. Authorities here say fake rumors spread on
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, triggered mob attacks that claimed more than a dozen lives in 2018.
Experts in Indian politics are worried that during the elections social media could be used to divide communities. Or worse trigger political
Facebook already under scrutiny after the 2016 U.S. presidential election has set up this election war room in California. Sitting in Silicon
Valley, these Facebook staffers are keeping a close eye on post being seen by hundreds of millions of Indian voters.
KATIE HERBATH, PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL ELECTIONS, FACEBOOK: We are starting to see a wide variety of different tactics that people might
be using to interfere with the elections. One of those that we have been investing a lot in our capabilities around is video or audio that might be
altered, to not be truthful.
KUMAR: Indian police are also worried. This is just one of the many special units set up to monitor social media around the clock. And
WhatsApp has launched a massive campaign to warn Indians about the threat of fake news. With more than 200 million users, this is the app's single
Back in Uttar Pradesh the problem is clear. Voters say it's often hard to figure out which political message on social media is real and which is
[11:25:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We can't trust every message. We get a lot of fake messages. We just don't know what's true.
KUMAR: Social media has become more than just a tool for mobilizing support, it's become a weapon for peddlers of misinformation. And voters
like these often don't know what to believe.
Nikhil Kumar, CNN, Uttar Pradesh, India.
ANDERSON: Well speaking of India's election, the seventh and final phase of voting in what is the world's largest democratic exercise is just a few
days away. The general election began in April and lasts several weeks to ensure that all voices across the country are heard, 900 million in fact.
That's how many people are eligible to vote.
May 19th is the final day for Indians to cast their ballots with official results to be announced May 23rd. Will voters renew their faith in
nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi or will a new player take on the role? We'll find out next week. More on the Indian elections of course at
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations speaks to CNN amid
suggestions that his country is behind several reported acts of sabotage. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN U.S. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended in the battle of Iraq. The United States and
our allies have prevailed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:30:00] ANDERSON: Well that depends on your definition of mission and accomplished. Some 16 years down the road, that speech coming from the
flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Planes taking off from it to bomb Iraq. Right now that same massive piece of American fire power just
off the coast of Yemen on its way to this area and the Persian Gulf there to be a huge warning to Iran. America locked and loaded, the message.
And reported acts of sabotage stoking tensions in this region. According to Saudi state media, two oil pumping stations belonging to Saudi Aramco
were attacked today by armed drones. After a separate incident on Sunday when four commercial ships were reportedly attacked off the coast of the
UAE. CNN's John Berman asked the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations if Iran was involved.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI, IRAN'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Definitely not. This is something that we have said we have regret and this has to be
-- there has to be a thorough investigation about this incident. Which is endangering the safety and security of navigation in the Persian Gulf area
which is very vital for Iran as well. So we want a thorough investigation.
And let me tell you that these allegations are being heard by certain people in Washington who whisper in the President's ears and some of the
people in our region, which are called B-Team -- Bibi Netanyahu, Bolton, bin Zayed, and bin Salman. These people are spreading these lies in order
to provoke, in order to prepare the ground for a conflict in our neighborhood.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No involvement from Iranian proxies, either? No one connected to Iran.
RAVANCHI: As I said, Iran is not in the business of doing such a thing. And we need to have a thorough investigation as to what was the -- what was
-- what has happened and who is responsible for it.
BERMAN: The United States predicated the movement of U.S. aircraft carrier and other equipment to the Persian Gulf based on what they told the media
was intelligence that Iran was planning some kind of attacks on U.S. interests. What about that intelligence?
RAVANCHI: These are all fake intelligence. These are fake intelligence based on certain narrow-minded agenda. As I said, pursued by certain
people in Washington as well as in our region. They are making up these allegations in order to create fake stories.
ANDERSON: Sources in Washington tell CNN that the attack off the coast of the Emirates had the M.O., the modus operandi of Iran, although no one at
this point pointing a direct finger. John Defterios joining me now. These reported acts of sabotage on vessels off the Emirati coast and oil pumping
stations in Saudi. Attacks on what is here in this region the strategically important oil and gas industry.
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNNMONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes. Certainly sends a very strong message. It's two days, two very different sort of attacks
against two rivals of Iran, being Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The minister of energy for Saudi Arabia, once again, the front man suggesting today not
sabotage but acts of terrorism.
We have a Google Map shot of this. It's a very strategic approach here to try to hit a pipeline and attack a pumping station, called pumping station
number eight, in the east/west pipeline that goes from the very rich oil fields in the eastern province all the way across the country. And this
happened right smack in the middle between Riyadh and Yanbu on the Red Sea.
So this is a very different sort of attack that the Houthis have tried before which is in the south. And we have only seen so far, Becky, a
Houthi television station suggesting the Houthi rebels are taking responsibility for it. We don't hear Iran suggesting it whatsoever. In
fact when John Berman's interview there I thought it was fascinating he said we're not in the business of causing trouble. And Javad Zarif was
suggesting himself that we need to have investigations.
Now is clearly not how the Saudis see it. Let's get to some of the details on why it shocked the market. There was a fire at the pumping station.
They aimed for two, got one. It did not hit their production or their refining capacity. Yanbu is a very large joint venture with China which
pumps out about 400,000 barrels a day. Ironically, as you know, the region designed to avoid the Strait of Hormuz by refining on the Red Sea and going
out in the other direction. On alert the market is up better than a dollar today.
[11:35:00] We're above $71 a Barrel on North Sea Brett. Not an alarm, as I suggested last night.
ANDERSON: I'm glad you pointed that out. The Iranians say we're not in the business of causing trouble in the region. I mean, that will bring a
wry smile to the faces of UAE and Saudi officials, America's main allies in the Gulf of course. Both supporting the Trump administration's efforts to
isolate Iran, to push back against what they see as Iran's malign influence in the region. I guess the big question that everybody wants answered at
the moment is what happens next. Still no claim of responsibility certainly off the coast of the Emirates. I tell you what, I'm going just
to ask you to stay with me. I want to get to Sochi to Russia where Sergey Lavrov is speaking.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): -- Mike Pompeo on Russian soil. This is his first visit to Russia in his capacity
of Secretary of State of the U.S. though he used to come here in his other capacities before.
Today we have had negotiations as a follow-up to meaningful one-and-a-half- hour telephone conversation between our Presidents which took place on the 3rd of May. And following up on that conversation, heads of state
instructing us to intensify our dialogue. We have started to tackle this task several days ago in Rovaniemi in Finland known as the Ministerial
Council of the Artic Council. That was a very useful meeting.
And today in the wake of that dialogue, we have thoroughly discussed the situation in our bilateral affairs as well as the estranged opinions on the
most relevant issues of international and regional issues. First and foremost, Venezuela, Korean Peninsula, Syria, Middle East on the whole, and
North Africa as well, Ukraine, Afghanistan and the situation around joint comprehensive plan of action on settling the Iranian nuclear deal.
As a result of our negotiations, we'll report to President Putin in a few hours. But overall, I would like to say this was a frank and a useful
conversation. It is clear that our relations have seen better times but there is a potential for mutual beneficial cooperation and it that largely
remains untapped. And a certain role is played in that by the legacy from the predecessors that was inherited by this administration. And I mean
anti-Russian sanction policy.
Since we're talking about major nuclear powers, the tension between Russia and the United States unavoidably has a negative impact on global affairs.
Therefore we together with secretary have agreed that we need to take practical steps to amend the current situation.
Russia is interested in normalizing our dialogue and we're convinced that is quite possible and real if we hold this dialogue based on mutual respect
and consideration of each other's interests.
We have agreed that it's important to rebuild channels of communications. Lately these channels were frozen, largely due a wake of baseless
accusations against us in attempts to influence American elections and certain collusion of high-ranking officials of the incumbent
administration. And it is clear that such insinuations are absolutely fake.
A report was published recently by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and we hope that this tumultuous situation will die down and we can finally move
on to building more professional constructive dialogue between Russia and the U.S.
I believe that we have all the basic understandings that were discussed by our Presidents at their meeting last year in Helsinki at the summit and
several times over the phone. Right now these understandings are not being fully implemented. As for tangible results we can say that December last
year we saw rebuilding of the working group on counter terrorism at the level of deputy secretary of state and deputy foreign minister. That's a
good step but it's not enough.
We expect that it will be possible to implement other ideas that were reviewed in Helsinki and recently by us in Finland as well as today here in
[11:40:00] First and foremost, I'd like to highlight it would be useful to create a non-governmental expert council of famous political analysts, ex-
military and diplomats, specially lists for bilateral relations and they could have a fresh take. And they could help us decide how to overcome the
accumulated mistrust in order to have the right interpretation of each other's actions in military atmosphere and to prevent arms race. And in
the future to create a sustainable and normal cooperation in other spheres as well.
We believe it is also useful to create a business advisory council that could unite represents of larger -- of nature business from both countries
and they could draft recommendations how the governments could create conditions for a conducive environment for economic cooperation.
We have also discussed what could give a positive impetus to Russian/American relations. We have given a memo to the Secretary of State
and we hope that Washington will carefully review that.
As for international agenda, we had a frank conversation on many issues including the situation around Venezuela. Russia is for the nation of
Venezuela to define its own future. And in this regard, it is extremely important that all patriotic and responsible political stake holders in
this country to start a dialogue between themselves. And a number of countries in the region call for the same thing within the mechanism of
Montevideo. The government as Nicolas Maduro has said is prepared for such a dialogue.
We spoke about Syria and the need to fully implement the Resolution 2254, the key clause there is the respect of sovereignty, territorial integrity
of the Syrian Arab Republic. We have agreed to continue consultations based on the context that we have and we have compared notes on a number of
specific aspects, including those that have to do with the final eradication of terrorism on the Syrian soil, ensuring the return of
refugees, solving humanitarian issues as well as launching of political process in establishing a constitutional committee. And we hope that this
committee in the nearest future will be able to start its work in Geneva under the interests of the U.N.
We spoke about Middle East, about the situation that's taken place around JCPOA on ensuring the peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear program. We have
many differences here. But the fact that we talk on this topic and will continue to discuss this situation, that gives us hope that certain
agreements could be reached with the support of the U.S. and Russia.
As for the situation in the Ukraine, there is also a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorse Minsk agreements and we expect that the new
administration in Ukraine will be able to define their position on Minsk agreements basing their actions on the fact that there was no alternative
to political settlement of this inner Ukrainian crisis.
As for other issues, I would like to highlight the situation around Korean Peninsula. Our Presidents discussed that thoroughly in the conversation on
the 3rd of May. President Putin told President Trump about the summit which took place in Vladivostok on the 25th of April. We are promoting
dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. We're prepared to support such a dialogue. And we're positive that in the end we should strive to create
a strong mechanism of peace and stability in northeast Asia.
Naturally, we highlighted that the leadership of DPRK expects certain guarantees of security of their country, reciprocated by denuclearization
and that denuclearization should be expanded over the whole of the Korean Peninsula.
We highlighted very useful cooperation that's happening on Afghanistan, including the three, Russia, United States and China. We paid special
attention to the issues of strategic stability.
We have reviewed the situation that's taking place around intermediate range nuclear forces treaty. We spoke about the promise of the New START
treaty considering that it is going to expire in February 2021.
[11:45:03] We are interested in renewing professional and specific dialogue on all aspects of arms control. I hope that such an agreement will be
positively received by our two nations and the global community on the whole.
Overall, I'd like to say once again that this conversation was a frank one, meaningful, detailed and I hope that the visit of Mike Pompeo would not
only help improve the atmosphere of Russian/American relations but it would also allow to move on maybe through small steps. But with specific
concrete steps in solving practical issues that require to be settled both in bilateral sphere and in regional and international agenda. I would like
to thank my counterpart for good negotiations. And please, you have the floor.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Sergey, thank you. Good afternoon. I want to first of all say that I appreciate President Putin and Prime
Minister Lavrov for hosting me today. Thank you, sir. We had a frank discussion about many issues including many places where we disagree. The
United States stands ready to find common ground with Russia as long as the two of us can engage seriously on those issues.
We discussed as Foreign Minister Lavrov said, many important topics. We talked about terrorism, we talked about Afghanistan. President Trump's
made clear that his expectation is that we will have an improved relationship between our two countries. This will benefit each of our
peoples. And I think that our talks here today were a good step in that direction.
A few subjects that we talked about. Foreign Minister Lavrov mentioned that we spoke about Syria. We both want to move forward on the political
track to bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end. And we want to do so in a way that ensures that Syria will never again be a haven for
Islamic terrorist groups.
I also raised are concerned about the escalation of the situation around Idlib in the northwest of Syria.
We also discussed North Korea and its nuclear program. The United States and Russia agree on the goal of the denuclearization. We'll continue to
discuss it. I underscored that we must maintain full implementation of the U.N. sanctions until the final fully verified denuclearization of North
Korea is achieved and our two teams have been working very closely together on this in a very productive fashion.
On Venezuela, we have disagreement. I urged my Russian colleagues to support the Venezuela people as they return democracy to their country.
The United States and more than 50 other nations agree that the time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go. He's brought nothing but misery to the
Venezuelan people. And we hope that the Russia's support for Maduro will end. But despite our disagreements, we'll keep talking. I hope we can
find a way forward to end the humanitarian political crisis that is happening. On this, we both agree.
We also discussed the situation in Ukraine. The Trump administration has been clear that we do not recognize Russia's attempt at annexation in
Crimea. And we hope that we can continue to move forward. Our sanctions have remained in place. [11:50:00] I urged Russia to reach out to
Ukraine's new President to demonstrate leadership by taking steps toward breaking the stalemate. We would in particular welcome the release of the
Ukrainian crewmen detained near the Kerch Strait last year. And we talked about implementation and how we might move forward in maintaining a cease
fire in the Donbass region.
We spoke a bit about the activities that are taking place in the Middle East today with particular focus on the actions that Iran is taking. I
made clear that the United States will continue to apply pressure to the regime in Tehran until its leadership is prepared to return to the ranks of
responsible nations that do not spread instability or spread instability or terror.
As Foreign Minister Lavrov alluded to, very much on President Trump's mind is arms control. Our actions on the INF treaty have demonstrated that
we're committed to effective arms control that advances U.S. allies and partner security that is verifiable an enforceable. The President has
charged his national security team to think more broadly about arms control to include countries beyond our traditional U.S./Russia framework and a
broader range of weapons systems.
The President wants serious arms control that delivers real security to the American people. And we know -- and I think we agree on this -- to achieve
these goals we'll have to work together and that it would be important that if it's possible, we get China involved as well. We'll have a more
extensive set of conversations both around arms control.
[11:50:00] And an opportunity to discuss all broad strategic security issues between our two countries in the weeks ahead.
I also raised the issue of U.S. citizens who have been detained in Russia, making sure that our citizens are not unjustly held abroad is one of
President Trump's highest priorities.
And we spoke too about the question of interference in our domestic affairs. I conveyed there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate
that these types of activities are a thing of the past and I hope that Russia will take advantage of those opportunities.
Finally I wanted to emphasize the American friendship with the Russian people. Our two nations share proud histories and respect for one
another's cultures. We seek a better relationship with Russia and we urge that it work alongside us to change the trajectory of the relationship
which will benefit each of our peoples. Thank you, Sergey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You colleagues will move on to Q&A. Komsomolskaya newspaper please. Vladimir Solovyov, Komsomolskaya
Vladimir Solovyov, Komsomolskaya newspaper (through translator): Mentioned the New STAR treaty which is expiring in 2021 but it is still unclear
whether it will be surely prolonged. Therefore the question to secretary Pompeo, is Washington prepared to extend the STAR treaty for five years as
Moscow is proposing. Whether the U.S. is prepared to discuss concerns of that conversion of launchers and heavy bombers as well? And the question
to Mr. Lavrov if the U.S. does not alleviate concerns of Russia, will Moscow continue to want to prolong the treaty? Thank you.
POMPEO: Foreign Minister Lavrov raised the issue of concerns about compliance with New START today. We'll continue to work to allow that
treaty to be verified exactly as the verification regime exists. As far as for extension, what we have agreed that we will do is we will gather
together teams that will begin to work not only on New START and its potential extension. But on a broader range of arms control issues that
each of our two nations have, I think, in our shared best interests of achieving an agreement on.
LAVROV (through translator): Now, as for our position indeed we have concerns that have to do with a claimed refitting of the U.S. launchers of
Trident SLBMs as well as heavy bombers of converting them to non-nuclear forces, the treaty foresees certain procedures that allow for the second
party -- should allow for the second party to verify that this conversion refitting of equipment is done in such a way that it is impossible to
return the nuclear warheads to the launchers on the bombers.
We're discussing that at bilateral consultative commission which oversees the implementation of the treaty. And we expect that [11:55:00] this
discussion will yield positive result in the end. As for the question what Russia will do if these concerns remain in place. I prefer not to respond
to that because right now we proceed with the assumption that we can agree within the bilateral consultative commission. And guessing -- and doing
the guess work what will happen, what will not, that's possibly not the diplomatic task. Our task is to achieve a result and that's what we will
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, we're going to go to Guy Benson from Fox News.
GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS: Thank you very much. I want to follow up on Venezuela. Mr. Secretary, what was the message from the Trump
administration specifically in regard to the Russian government and their continued support of Nicolas Maduro and their active involvement in the
Western hemisphere? And Mr. Foreign minister, why is it the Russian government persists in supporting Mr. Maduro when virtually every democracy
in Latin America has recognized Mr. Guaido as the legitimate interim leader of that country? Thank you.
POMPEO: We talked about this for some time. We made clear the U.S. position. We want every country that's interfering in Venezuela to cease
doing that. We want the Venezuelan people to get their democracy back. We want them to have a fair, free election, elect their own leadership not in
the way the sham election took place with Mr. Maduro. So whether it's Iranian forces or Chinese or Cubans, the Trump administration's position is
that they all need to cease having an impact in supporting Maduro. And allowing the Venezuelan people not only to get their democracy back but
give them an opportunity to rebuild this country that has tremendous wealth.
[11:55:00] There are Russian companies operating there that are successful businesses as well. We want those countries -- we want that country to get
a chance to rebuild its economy too so that it isn't dependent on humanitarian assistant from anywhere in the world. But rather they can
begin to deliver economic outcomes for themselves. And to do that the central point is that we need free and fair elections there not interfered
by any other nation.
LAVROV (through translator): As for our position and in response to your question. Why Russia is taking such a stance in support of dialogue of all
the issues by Venezuelans themselves with no ultimatums and no preconditions. Well, this position stems from the fact that democracy
cannot be done by force. The threats that we hear against Maduro government, threats that come from the mouths of official representatives
of the U.S. administration and from Mr. Guaido who always mentions his right to invite military intervention from outside. This has nothing in
common with democracy.
We remember back in 2003 I think that was May, the President of the United States George W. Bush on the board of aircraft carrier declared the
democracy in Iraq. Remember, 2011 it was declared that the leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, was ousted and now Libya is a democracy. I don't
think I should go into more detail on how democracy fills itself in Iraq and Libya and other places where such attempts of coup d'etat took place
and brought nothing good about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Russia 24 channel please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Thank you Natalia Gallitofka (ph), 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 a 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? And are European leaders on board with you on that?
LAVROV (through translator): 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 Mike Pompeo.
POMPEO: Let me talk about my conversations with 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 action that is the Iranians are
taking or 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 division 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 Hezbollah 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 Iranians that if American interests are attacked, we will most certainly respond in an appropriate fashion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shaun Tandon, AFP.
SHAUN TANDON, AFP: Great, thank you. Thanks for your time. I wanted to follow-up on a couple of statements you 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.