Top diplomats Antony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov give optimistic notes at the first face-to-face meeting since Joe Biden became president of the United States.
Top diplomats in the United States and Russia have held their first face-to-face talks and have acknowledged that while former Cold War enemies have serious differences over how they view world affairs, they can find ways to work together in issues of mutual interest.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his first meeting Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a veteran diplomat, said that “it was no secret that we had our differences,” but that the world would be safer if the leaders of the two countries worked together.
Lavrov praised the talks as “constructive” and “useful,” and said both sides understood the need to repair the ties.
“The conversation seemed constructive to me,” Lavrov told Russian news agencies after talks in Reykjavik.
Blinken said Biden wanted “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia” and said the two countries could work together in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the fight against climate change, the management of Iran’s nuclear programs and North Korea and the war in Afghanistan.
“We believe this is good for our people, good for the Russian people and, in fact, good for the world,” Blinken said.
The discussions marked the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Joe Biden became president of the United States in January and lasted an hour and 45 minutes, longer than expected for an hour.
Lavrov said diplomats would prepare proposals for a possible meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin as early as June, according to Russian state media.
An official summary of the meeting of State Department spokesman Ned Price did not mention the possible presidential summit.
Blinken expressed concern about Russia’s military deployments in and near Ukraine and raised the health of Kremlin detainee critic Alexey Navalny, Price said. He also pushed for Russia to release US citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed.
Ties between the two countries have been full since March, when Biden, not long after his presidency, said he considered Putin a “killer,” prompting Moscow to remember its U.S. ambassador for consultations. The envoy has not yet returned.
Lavrov said there were “many logjams” in the ties of the two countries and working on them was not easy.
“But I perceived the determination of Antony Blinken and his team to do so. We won’t look forward to it, ”he said.
Half an hour after Wednesday’s meeting, the United States imposed sanctions on some ships and entities involved in the construction of the $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would carry Russian Arctic gas to Germany, an agreement that Biden has objected. The administration decided, however, to waive sanctions on the company behind the pipeline and its executive.
After his brief comments, Lavrov did not answer the so-called questions about the sanctions.
Prior to the announcement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov had said the waiver of these sanctions would help normalize ties between Moscow and Washington.
Lavrov, summing up Russia’s position on the United States, described it as “very simple.”
“We are prepared to discuss all issues without exception, but with the perception that the discussion will be honest, with the facts on the table and of course on the basis of mutual respect.”