The meeting of the heads of diplomatic departments took place against the background of escalating tensions in US-Russian relations.
In Reykjavik, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Arctic Council, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on Wednesday evening, the Reuters news agency reported. The meeting took place against the backdrop of increasing tensions in US-Russian relations.
Speaking at a press briefing before the talks, Blinken and Lavrov stressed that while the US and Russia have differences, they should work together on some issues.
Speaking to reporters, Secretary Blinken noted that the differences between Washington and Moscow “are no secret” and warned that the United States will respond to Russia’s aggressive actions, but stressed that the whole world will feel safer if the authorities of both countries work together.
Sergey Lavrov agreed that Russia and the United States have “serious differences” but, in his opinion, they should cooperate “in areas where our interests overlap.”
The first high-level talks between the top US diplomat and his Russian counterpart lasted one hour and 45 minutes, taking longer than expected.
According to Russian state media, Lavrov said the talks were “constructive,” adding that he and Secretary of State Blinken would prepare proposals for a possible meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A press release issued by State Department spokesman Ned Price after the talks did not mention a possible summit.
According to Ned Price, Blinken during the negotiations raised the issue of the release of US citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, who are now in Russian prisons. The Secretary of State also expressed concern about the increase in the number of Russian troops on the borders with Ukraine and said that the United States is concerned about the health of Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician, and critic of the regime, who was sentenced to prison.
According to Reuters, 30 minutes after the talks began in Reykjavik, the United States imposed sanctions on several vessels and organizations involved in the construction of the $ 11 billion “Nord stream-2” pipeline. President Biden has repeatedly opposed the project, calling it a “bad deal” for Europe.
However, the Biden administration lifted sanctions imposed on the German company Nord Stream 2 AG, which is behind the gas pipeline project, and its CEO Matthias Warnig and other top managers of the company.
Lavrov did not answer journalists ‘ questions about the sanctions. Shortly before the State Department’s announcement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that waiving some of the sanctions would help normalize relations between Moscow and Washington.
Lavrov, summing up Russia’s position on the United States, described it as “very simple.”
“We are ready to discuss all issues without exception on the understanding that this discussion will be honest, with the facts on the table and, of course, on a mutually respectful basis,” the Russian news agency TASS reported, quoting Lavrov.
Relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated in March after President Joe Biden agreed in an interview with a journalist that President Putin was a murderer. The Russian ambassador to the United States was recalled to Moscow “for consultations” and has not yet returned to Washington.
Russia is ready to resolve the issues remaining after the actions of the previous US administration, Lavrov added, referring to the presidency of Donald Trump.
Blinken said President Biden wants a “predictable, stable relationship with Russia,” and stressed that the two countries can work together to counter the coronavirus pandemic, combat climate change, address issues related to Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, and the conflict in Afghanistan.
“We think it’s good for our people, good for the Russian people, and really good for the world,” Blinken said.
Secretary Blinken and Minister Lavrov held the first high-level face-to-face talks in preparation for the summit between President Joe Biden and Russian Leader Vladimir Putin.
As recently reported by the Russian media, the summit may be held in Switzerland. Earlier, the official representative of the US Foreign Ministry said that the meeting between Blinken and Lavrov in Reykjavik would provide an opportunity to discuss the establishment of “more predictable relations with Russia” and work in areas in which the two countries have common interests.