WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump brushed aside concerns over his wooing of Russian Federation on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) and laid on a White House welcome for Moscow's top diplomat to seek help to end the war in Syria.
The meeting came a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been in charge of the investigation into any ties between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, CBS News reported.
The Washington Post reports that Comey had requested more resources from the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the alleged collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, according to two unidentified officials, a week before he was sacked by Trump. White House officials confirmed the meeting only after news of Comey's dismissal emerged on Tuesday evening.
This drew immediate criticism because the White House seemed to have allowed Russian state media to take photos of the meeting while excluding any American media outlets from doing the same.
The Lavrov photo was quickly followed up by one released by the Russian Embassy of Trump shaking hands with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador in Washington.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hoped Comey's firing would not affect Moscow's ties with Washington, saying it believed his dismissal had nothing to do with Russian Federation.
Still, stark differences remain on the best way forward in the six-year Syrian war which has left more than 500,000 dead and displaced millions.
In his earlier meeting with Lavrov, Tillerson emphasized the USA wouldn't lift sanctions on Russian Federation related to Ukraine until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered the punishment - namely, its Crimea annexation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (SEHR'-gay LAHV'-rahf) says Russia wants the U.S.to play an active role in helping secure four de-escalation zones in Syria.
In brief remarks to journalists after the meeting, Trump said his decision to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey the day before his meeting with Lavrov did not affect the meeting "at all".
United States intelligence agencies accuse Moscow of meddling to help Mr Trump's chances of victory.
Vladimir Putin's top diplomat arrived at the White House mid-morning Wednesday for a 25-minute meeting with the leader of the free world.
In one Twitter message on Wednesday, Trump said, "The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!"
"Does the Comey firing cast a shadow of your talks, gentlemen?" a reported asked.
In 2014, Russian Federation annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, drawing widespread condemnation in Europe and the United States. Earlier on Wednesday, Lavrov met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"We will look at the proposal, see if it can work", Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Monday.
Lavrov stopped, turned around, and asked, "Was he fired?"
Despite the lack of clarity, the meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Lavrov in itself was a sign of some progress. "That's the USA president's independent decision, which has nothing to do and should have nothing to do with Russian Federation".