WASHINGTON, U.S. - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday, during which he urged Moscow to pull back in eastern Ukraine, making his first public statement about foreign policy since addressing employees upon arriving at the State Department two weeks ago.
The former ExxonMobil chief executive then signed a joint statement condemning North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test, sticking to conventional foreign policy in discussions with Japan and South Korea.
"The United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to its allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, including the commitment to provide extended deterrence, backed by the full range of its nuclear and conventional defense capabilities," Tillerson said in a joint statement.
But pivotal during the visit to Bonn, Germany, was the secretary of state, taking a firm line on Russia and Ukraine during his one-hour meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of a G20 gathering.
This was the first face-to-face meeting between top U.S. and Russian officials since Trump's inauguration last month.
“As I made clear in my Senate confirmation hearing, the United States will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people,” Tillerson said following the meeting.
"Where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies. As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in Ukraine,” he added.
Lavrov, on his part, stressed the common ground between the two countries.
"Obviously, we cannot solve all problems... but we have a mutual understanding that where our interests coincide, and there are many such spheres, we must move ahead," Lavrov remarked.
Reacting to the meeting between diplomats of Russia and the U.S.; British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson welcomed the measured approach.
"You have got to engage with Russia but you have got to engage in a very guarded way," he was quoted as saying in a BBC report.
"We don't want to get into a new Cold War. That's something London and Washington are completely at one on. But nor do we want Russian behavior to continue as it is. Rex Tillerson has been very clear about that."