STATE DEPARTMENT - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, Monday amid tensions between the two countries over the political crisis in Venezuela, with both top diplomats stressing they do not want foreign military intervention in the country.
After their discussions on the sidelines of a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland, in which the United States and Russia are members, Pompeo was asked how far apart the two countries are on Venezuela.
"I don’t want to say too much, other than I made clear our view that Venezuelans deserve a democracy that is, doesn’t have any foreign party running the country, or involvement in their country on a consistent basis in a military way," he replied, adding, “so, we want the Cubans out, we want the Iranians out, we want Russia’s military out.”
He said he and Lavrov will have further conversations to try to find a way forward.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told reporters after the meeting he warned Pompeo that U.S. military intervention in Venezuela would be catastrophic and unjustified.
Lavrov also told reporters that the meeting had been constructive, and that he was sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump will have another chance to meet again after their summit in Helsinki last year.
Ahead of the meeting Monday in Finland, Pompeo had said he wants Russia to stop "messing around" in Venezuela.
“I’m going to tell him [Lavrov] the same thing the president told the world: that every country must get out, including the Russians,” Pompeo told Fox News Sunday. “That’s what I’ll tell him. We don’t want anyone messing around with Venezuela."
The meeting between Pompeo and Lavrov in Finland comes a day after Lavrov met with Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in Moscow.
Arreaza told reporters Monday that Venezuela may expand the use of Russian military, as the country fights attempts by opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido to oust longtime ruler Nicolas Maduro.
The U.S. has recognized Guaido as Venezuela's leader and supported a bid by Venezuela's opposition last week to spur a military uprising, which ultimately failed.
Last week, Pompeo told Lavrov in a phone call that “the intervention by Russia and Cuba is destabilizing for Venezuela and for the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship.” Pompeo also urged Russia to stop support Maduro.
Washington has accused Russia of talking Maduro out of leaving Venezuela. Moscow has denied the allegation.
Pompeo is currently attending a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland, of which both the U.S. and Russia are members.