Story highlights

Tillerson met Lavrov on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum

He also discussed North Korea with regional diplomats at the meeting

Manila CNN  — 

The top US diplomat told his Russian counterpart that Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election has seriously damaged the relationship between the two countries.

Speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum in the Philippines Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that “meddling in the elections is certainly a serious incident.”

“We talked about it in the discussion we had with Minister Lavrov yesterday – and trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the US and the American people and the Russian people,” Tillerson said.

“(I said) this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.”

Moscow has consistently maintained that it did not interfere in last year’s US general election, rebutting claims by multiple American intelligence agencies.

01:37 - Source: CNN
Russia retaliates against US after sanctions

Tillerson and Lavrov’s meeting comes after US President Donald Trump signed a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress imposing new sanctions on Russia.

‘We have our differences’

The bill’s passage drew ire from Moscow – which responded by stripping 755 staff members and two properties from US missions in the country – dealing a serious blow to the reset in US-Russian relations that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had called for.

European countries have also strongly criticized the sanctions, with Germany saying they violate international law and the European Union warning they will negatively impact its economies because they would hinder several key energy projects in Europe.

Last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov hinted further retaliation could be coming, saying “if the US side decides to move further towards further deterioration, we will answer, we will respond in kind.”

Speaking Monday, Tillerson said he discussed the pending removal of consular staff with Lavrov: “I told the foreign minister we had not made a decision regarding how we will respond to Russia’s request to remove US diplomatic personnel.”

Tillerson said he would respond to the matter by September 1, adding that the US and Russia should find ways to work together.

“We have our differences, we’re going to have to continue to find a way to address those,” he said.

The US diplomat wraps up his Asia trip, which also saw him meet with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts to discuss North Korea in the wake of sweeping new economic sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations Security Council.

CNN’s Ivan Watson reported from Manila, James Griffiths wrote from Hong Kong. Angela Dewan contributed to this report.