Top diplomats from the United States and Russia have stressed they retain serious differences in how they view world affairs but struck an optimistic tone during the first high-level talks of the Biden era between the former Cold War foes.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his first meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said it was “no secret that we have our differences” and that Washington would respond to aggressive acts by Russia, but that the world would be safer if the two countries worked together.
Lavrov, speaking through a translator at the opening of the meeting in Reykjavik on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting, said Russia and the United States have “serious differences” but have to co-operate “in spheres where our interests collide”.
Blinken said US President Joe Biden wants “a predictable, stable relationship with Russia” and said the two countries could work together on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, combating climate change, dealing with Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, and the war in Afghanistan.
“That’s good for our people, good for the Russian people and indeed good for the world,” Blinken said.
The meeting, the first high-level, in-person discussion between the Biden administration and a Russian counterpart, lasted one hour and 45 minutes.
Lavrov said the talks were “constructive” and the two diplomats would prepare proposals for a possible meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Russian state media.
Relations have been fraught since March when Biden – not long into his presidency – said he regarded Putin as a “killer”, prompting Moscow to recall its US ambassador for consultations. The envoy has not yet returned.
Lavrov, summarising Russia’s posture toward the United States, described it as “very simple”.
“We are ready to discuss all the issues without exception, but under the perception that the discussion will be honest, with the facts on the table, and of course on the basis of mutual respect,” he said.