Blinken, Lavrov enter first high-level talks despite ‘differences’

Copenhagen, May 19 (EFE).- The first high-level talks between United States and Russia since President Joe Biden took office began Wednesday in Reykjavik between their respective foreign officials and despite the “differences” and tension between the two countries.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a few words in which he stressed that it’s “no secret that we have our differences.”

“When it comes to those differences, as President Biden has also shared with President Putin, if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we’ll respond,” Blinken said ahead of the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the Arctic Council summit.

Still, he asserted that the US does not want an escalation of tension with Russia, but only seeks to defend its interests.

“Having said that, there are many areas where our interests intersect and overlap,” said Blinken, citing as examples the fights against the pandemic and climate change, the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, and Afghanistan.

He assured that “the world can be a safer and more secure place” if there is a collaboration between the US and Russia.

Lavrov spoke next and was willing to address all issues “on the table” with his American counterpart, as long as the talks were factual, honest and respectful.

The head of Russian diplomacy agreed the two sides “greatly diverge when it comes to our assessment of international situation and our approaches towards how we should resolve it.”

“As you’ve said, the status of relations between Moscow and Washington greatly influences the international situation in general,” Lavrov said.

He stressed that both presidents Vladimir Putin and Biden in their telephone conversations agreed on the need to cooperate in areas where interests coincide and where “positive outcomes” can be achieved, such as in resolving conflicts.

“Our task that we have at hand is a continuation of the telephone conversations between our presidents to decide how we are going to move forward with our relations,” he said.

Lavrov was open to talking with his counterpart about Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, from where US troops will be withdrawing this year.

Lavrov and Blinken were also expected to talk about the possibility of holding of a bilateral summit, but this was not mentioned.

Afterwards, Lavrov said the two-hour talk had been constructive, while Blinken had raised concerns regarding Russia’s military deployments in and near Ukraine, the health of Alexei Navalny and the repression of opposition organizations, among other issues.

In a nod to Putin, at the same time on Wednesday the US government exempted Nord Stream 2 AG and its CEO, Matthias Warnig, from sanctions over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction, which it continues to oppose. The US will sanction 13 vessels linked to this project.

Tensions between the Kremlin and the White House soared after Biden in March agreed with an assessment that Putin is a “killer” in a TV interview, and have continued with the departure of their respective envoys, sanctions, diplomat expulsions, among other issues. EFE


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