After a more than two-hour delay following his unexpected meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Wednesday in Moscow.
The two engaged in “frank and substantial talks,” Lavrov said. Their talks came at an opportune time because the "escalating situation" between their two nations would not bode well for the future.
The “irritancy” between Russia and the U.S. escalated during the Obama administration “especially,” the foreign minister noted.
“There are certain issues that have been inherited, so-to-speak, as time bombs" from the Obama Administration, he said.
“There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” he said.
The world’s two leading superpowers "cannot" have such a poor relationship, he insisted.
The two leaders discussed improving channels of communication, with an emphasis on more senior level communication.
"We've agreed to establish a working group to address smaller issues and make progress towards stabilizing the relationship," Tillerson revealed.
In their “productive” conversation, Tillerson and Lavrov talked about the steps they must take to improve international stability. They agreed that North Korea has to be de-nuclearized and that the civil war in Syria must be addressed in an "orderly" way.
The foreign minister was confident that Russia and the U.S. have a common goal of overseeing an “absolute defeat of ISIS” and seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis. He also noted they wanted a “frank investigation” into the Syrian chemical attack, believed to be launched by President Bashar al-Assad.
The end goal, according to Tillerson, is removing the Assad regime. He repeated what Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday - that the Syrian government clearly orchestrated the chemical weapon attack that killed nearly 100 people.
"The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end and they have brought this on themselves," Tillerson said.
At one point, Lavrov also pushed back at the U.S. intelligence community, which has reason to believe that Russia interfered in U.S. elections. Russia has not seen even a "hint of evidence" to prove that, Lavrov insisted.