On the Record Statement by Spokesperson Heather Nauert: U.S.-Russia Relations

We regret that Russia has decided to turn away from an opportunity to discuss bilateral obstacles that hinder U.S.-Russia relations.

During the Secretary’s April visit to Moscow, he and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to establish a senior-level working group to discuss bilateral issues of concern. Undersecretary Shannon had planned to travel to St. Petersburg this week to continue discussions which began in May when he met Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov in New York.

The maintenance package of sanctions issued yesterday by the Treasury Department, which only reinforced existing sanctions, was designed to counter attempts to circumvent our sanctions and to maintain alignment of U.S. measures with those of our international partners. We have regularly updated these sanctions twice a year since they were first imposed.

Let’s remember that these sanctions didn’t just come out of nowhere. Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, Ukraine. If the Russians seek an end to these sanctions, they know very well the U.S. position: Our sanctions on Russia related Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. Our sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.

We would refer you to the Russian government to explain their decision to cancel this meeting. From our perspective, and as Secretary Tillerson has made clear, there are many issues to be discussed. We remain open to future discussions.