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Natasha Turak — CNBC Jan 15, 2018

Strained relations evident at an earlier meeting between Tillerson and Lavrov. Click to enlarge

Moscow will not accept any changes to the Iran nuclear pact made by the United States, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference Monday, accusing the U.S. of fomenting further conflict around the Middle East.

The minister fielded questions on a range of topics from Syria to Ukraine, criticizing U.S. activities in Syria and the Israel-Palestine conflict while insisting the Russian government supports peace and reconciliation.

“We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran,” Lavrov told reporters.

On Friday, President Donald Trump agreed to uphold sanctions relief for Iran as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015 by all United Nations Security Council members and Germany, which allowed the lifting of sanctions in exchange for sharp restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

But Trump’s disapproval of the deal is well known. He announced that this would be the “last time” he would waive sanctions and pledged to fix what he called the “terrible flaws” in the deal with the help of Congress. Russia, along with EU leaders, have urged the U.S. to respect the integrity of the original arrangement.

Lavrov also disparaged Washington’s recently announced plan to implement a 30,000-man border security force in Syria’s Kurdish territory. “This is a very serious issue, which causes concerns that a course was set for the partition of Syria,” the minister said. He also claimed there was no difference between Trump and former President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria, accusing the U.S. of supporting forces that did “not wish to put an end to the conflict as soon as possible.”

It didn’t come as a surprise that Russia’s top diplomat would voice his government’s aversion to American foreign policy. The two countries have been at opposing ends of some of the most internecine conflicts of the past several years, particularly Syria’s civil war and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In April 2017, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described American-Russian relations as going through the “most difficult period since the end of the Cold War.”

Syria: Conflicting narratives

Continues …

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