Trump admin still seeks cooperation with Russia despite new sanctions and retaliation

Tillerson in Asia meets with Russian counterpart.

The meeting between the two envoys Sunday also followed Moscow's retaliating over the new sanctions by seizing two American diplomatic properties and ordering a huge cut in the U.S. diplomatic staff by over 700.

It's unclear how many of those in the U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia are Americans. The majority are Russian locals employed by the American government.

But Lavrov explained to Tillerson how Russia plans to follow through on its demand for a U.S. personnel cut, Lavrov told Russian media after the meeting.

"He was interested most of all" in this, Lavrov added, blaming "the Russophobia inclination of the members of Congress" for sparking Russia's retaliation. Trump tweeted something similar last week, saying "You can thank Congress" for the "all-time and very dangerous low."

Lavrov also said the Trump administration is ready to push forward toward cooperation -- something Tillerson has also said he wants.

"We felt the readiness of our U.S. colleagues to continue dialogue. I think there's no alternative to that," Lavrov said Sunday, according to Reuters.

That echoed what Tillerson told reporters Tuesday, "We can’t let [sanctions] take us off track of trying to restore the relationship."

During a photo-op before their meeting, Tillerson and Lavrov shared smiles and some pleasantries, but both ignored a question on how the new sanctions will impact their talks.

The American side has not provided a readout of the meeting, but Tillerson's senior aide R.C. Hammond said in an email to ABC News that "Day 1" at the summit in Manila was "productive... Still a lot to do."

Tillerson has made clear that he and Trump did not support the legislation, but would enforce it now that it's law.

ABC News's Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.