During Philippines trip, Rex Tillerson says Washington has to deal with Kremlin despite election interference.

The U.S. wants to retain ties with Russia despite alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday.

Speaking at a news conference in Manila, where he is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Tillerson said Washington could not completely sever links with the Kremlin.

“I don’t think it is useful to just cut everything off on one single issue,” he said, adding that the countries should try to work together.

Local media reported that Tillerson discussed the election when he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday.

The secretary said he had tried to emphasize “just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship” between the countries, broadcaster ABS-CBN reported.

U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia interfered in last year’s election to damage Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

This led to Congress passing fresh U.S. sanctions against Russia last month that has led to Moscow moving to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats and seize two U.S. facilities in Russia. Tillerson said Washington would respond by Sept. 1.

Heightened tension is also tied to a U.S. investigation into links between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.

Both Tillerson and Lavrov said there were signs of improved engagement between the two countries on Syria, Ukraine and North Korea.

Russia had been showing “some willingness”" to open talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis, Tillerson said while Lavrov announced that the U.S. is to send a special envoy to Moscow to discuss the conflict.

A cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia in southwest Syria has shown how the countries could work together.

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