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US Refutes Russian Claim of Broken Communication


FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, answers a reporter's question on Sept. 9, 2016, at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland, before they begin a bilateral meeting focused on Syria.

U.S. officials expressed bafflement Wednesday over Kremlin comments that relations between Washington and Moscow are practically frozen.

"I was just as much surprised as you," a high-ranking U.S. official told reporters, adding that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov "should be asked about his comments."

The Kremlin official's assertion came just a day after a telephone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and on the same day that American and Russian military officers held a video conference to discuss flight safety over Syria.

"The dialogue has not been broken," State Department spokesman John Kirby said at Wednesday's daily briefing. "Communications are not frozen."

Washington remains committed to "dialogue and communication," Kirby added.

U.S. officials acknowledge significant differences with Russia at a time of heightened tensions, ranging from Moscow's backing of Syria's government in its brutal offensive against rebels to alleged Russian interference in the recent U.S. presidential election.

FILE - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
FILE - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia's Mir TV on Wednesday that "almost every level of dialogue" had been severed with the United States.

Peskov is also quoted as saying he expects President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration to take a "fresher and more constructive approach."

His remarks came a day after the White House expressed its commitment to implementing new economic sanctions on Russia — a decision the Russian foreign ministry said it "regretted," while also vowing Moscow will take commensurate measures.

Leaders from Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday, excluding representatives from the United States and the United Nations, to discuss solutions to ending the nearly six-year war in Syria.

There are expectations that U.S.-Russian ties, which became increasingly tense during the eight years of the Obama administration, are set to improve when Trump takes office.

The president-elect has dismissed U.S. intelligence reports blaming Russia for hacking computers of the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the election to Trump. He has also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and selected ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who has deep business ties to Russia, to be his secretary of state.

VOA’s Joshua Fatzick contributed to this report.

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