The Latest: Lavrov: Russia expects Syrian govt gains in east

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the Russian foreign minister’s annual news conference (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

Russia’s foreign minister says that Moscow expects the Syrian government to take over territory in the country’s east following the U.S. military withdrawal.

Sergey Lavrov told a news conference that it’s necessary to fully restore Syria’s sovereignty, adding that Turkey’s plan to create a buffer zone on the border with Syria should also be seen in that context.

He added that representatives of the U.S.-allied Kurdish units have engaged in negotiations with the Syrian government, noting that the U.S. military facilities in the area should go under Damascus’ control once U.S. troops leave.

Lavrov said that the situation in Syria will be on the agenda for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talks in Moscow next week.

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1:05 p.m.

Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow isn’t considering a possibility of swapping an American arrested on suspicion of espionage for any of the Russians held in the U.S.

Sergey Lavrov says that Paul Whelan’s brother is in Moscow and has been briefed about prison conditions. The U.S. Embassy wouldn’t comment.

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in Moscow last month on suspicion of espionage.

Lavrov rejected the allegations that Russian authorities could have arrested Whelan in order to swap him for one of the Russians held in the U.S., saying “we don’t do such things.” He said Whelan was caught red-handed and the investigation is ongoing.

Whelan holds citizenship from U.S., Britain, Ireland and Canada, and Lavrov said Russia will allow consular visits.

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12:40 p.m.

Russia’s foreign minister has ridiculed allegations that U.S. President Donald Trump could have worked for Moscow’s interests.

Sergey Lavrov has told a news conference that U.S. media reports claiming that Trump might have been a Russian agent reflect a dramatic plunge in standards of journalism. Trump said this week he never worked for Russia.

Asked if Russia could release the minutes of Trump’s one-on-one negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov dismissed the idea, saying it defies the basic culture of diplomacy.

He said such requests reflect illegitimate meddling in the U.S. president’s constitutional right to conduct foreign policy.

Lavrov also scoffed at the charges leveled against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying that he only talked to the Russian ambassador in a bid to protect U.S. interests.

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12:25 p.m.

Russia’s foreign minister says that the U.S. has ignored Moscow’s proposal to inspect a Russian missile that Washington says has violated a nuclear arms treaty.

Sergey Lavrov says that Russia offered during talks in Geneva earlier this week that U.S. experts see the missile. He said the U.S. negotiators stonewalled the offer, repeating Washington’s demand that Russia destroys the weapon it claimed violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Lavrov charged that the U.S. refusal to consider the Russian offer to have a close look at the missile reflects Washington’s intention to abandon the INF treaty,

U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson said in Tuesday’s statement that “the meeting was disappointing as it is clear Russia continues to be in material breach of the treaty.”

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