Senior State Dept. official heading to Russia to talk 'irritants'

A U.S. official will meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov amid reports that the Trump administration is considering returning to Russia access to two diplomatic compounds in the U.S.

The State Department has declined to say whether the reports are accurate. Secretary Tillerson’s senior adviser RC Hammond would only say, “The U.S. and Russia have reached no agreements.”

“The goal of the meeting is to resolve a laundry list of smaller grievances between the two countries,” he added.

Russian diplomats and their families were expelled from diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland by the Obama administration, in response to the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the harassment of American diplomats in Russia.

“The president asked me to begin a re-engagement process with Russia,” Tillerson said in Wellington, New Zealand, Tuesday. “The President has been clear to me do not let what’s happening over here in the political realm prevent you from the work you need to do on this relationship.”

“Returning the compounds to Russian control is unjustifiable,” they wrote. “It would both make it easier for the Kremlin to continue its intelligence operations in our own backyard and make it clear that they can avoid consequences for their actions. We strongly advise against it.”

The summit in St. Petersburg comes after Shannon and Ryabkov held previous talks in New York on May 8 at the behest of their bosses, Tillerson and his counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who met in Moscow in April and directed them to deal with the smaller issues dragging down any reconciliation in the relationship.