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10:10 - Source: CNN

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Lavrov: Russia shares President Trump's desire for "re-establishing normal relations"

Russia's foreign minister also called for a normalization of ties with the European Union

CNN  — 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called for the “re-establishment of normal relations” between Russia and the United States under the Trump administration.

His desire for better US-Russian relations on Wednesday echoes previous statements by US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“Following the difficult relations we had under Barack Obama, President Putin is ready to meet in the interests of global security and stability,” Lavrov said, in remarks to Russia’s lower house of parliament. “We share the position expressed by President Trump for re-establishing normal relations. This means we need to work in a businesslike way.”

Lavrov also urged a normalization of ties between Russia and the European Union and said “Russophobia” must be combated.

“We cannot build our relations other than on mutual respect,” he said.

The US and EU both imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Amid continued concern over potential Russian aggression, some 4,000 US soldiers have been deployed as part of troop rotations to Europe that the Pentagon has said are intended to bolster ties with NATO allies and send a clear message to Russia.

Russia has previously said it sees the buildup of NATO forces as a threat – and Lavrov told lawmakers that their country was obliged to respond.

“We understand that we had to carry out measures in response to the actions of NATO, about the military potential of (NATO), including their missile defense system,” he said Wednesday. “Russia is a peaceful country but we have to be ready and prepared to provide the security and safety of our citizens,” he said.

Addressing the continued violence in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov accused Kiev of “continuing to set up armed provocations” in the conflict zone and of a “stubborn refusal” to abide by a ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk in 2015.

Syrian talks ‘important’

Lavrov also highlighted Russia’s role in facilitating talks between the Syrian government and Syrian rebel groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, this week, saying they were “extremely important.”

The talks – backed by Russia, Turkey and Iran – could help pave the way to further discussions in Geneva, Switzerland, next month.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared the Astana meeting a “success” in a call with reporters Wednesday and said he hoped it would help to restart the Geneva peace process.

“Undoubtedly it is a success. Undoubtedly it is a significant support to the Geneva process, you know, the main avenue to settling the Syrian issue is in Geneva, we know that there have been some stumbling blocks there for quite a while,” he said.

“The fact that a meeting of the interested parties took place is the most positive thing – so that’s why we are positive about the talks [in Astana],” Peskov said. “Time will show how viable these talks are and it’s the practicability of them which will dictate the situation.”

The new Trump administration opted not to send a delegation to Astana, instead tapping US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol to represent Washington’s interests.

Lavrov: Middle East stability needed

In his remarks Wednesday, Lavrov also highlighted Russia’s desire to strengthen ties with China and other Asian nations.

And he said Russian diplomacy around the world was focused on promoting Russian citizens’ security and the country’s best interests.

“We cannot fight the terrorism without stabilization of the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq, Libya – we have to work together with Iran, Syria, Turkey and other countries in order to solve the Syria crisis,” he said.

CNN’s Emma Burrows and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.