U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said while in Russia he warned his Russian counterpart against “unacceptable” Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Pompeo’s first trip to Russia began on May 14.

At a news conference following three hours of meetings, he said he told Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that any such action by the Russians in the 2020 elections “would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.”

The two diplomats met in the resort city of Sochi near the Black Sea. In rare talks, they discussed issues that have left tensions heightened between Moscow and Washington. The two talked about Iran, Syria, and U.S. support of Venezuela’s interim president Juan Guaido, as Russia backs the Maduro regime.

During televised remarks at the meeting, Pompeo said that he came to Russia because President Donald Trump was “committed to improve this relationship” despite differences between the United States and Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, (L), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a joint news conference after their talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, southern Russia on May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

On Venezuela, Lavrov defended Russia’s position and said the threats Maduro’s regime is receiving from Trump’s administration along with Guaido’s seeming support for foreign military intervention “bear no relation to democracy.”

Pompeo said that during the meeting with Lavrov, he urged Russia to end its support of regime leader Maduro. The two are to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the results of their talks.

Pompeo also said that the United States wants to avoid war with Iran. He said that “we fundamentally don’t seek war with Iran.”

Lavrov said both countries are overdue in dispelling “suspicions and prejudices” and to “start building a new constructive framework” of how Russia and the United States see each other.

Pompeo had scrapped a scheduled Moscow visit to stop by Brussels where he had talks with European leaders about the mounting tensions with Iran.

Includes reporting from The Associated Press.

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